Two nursing students experience the realities of living in a nurse’s home in the 1960s

By Angela Fox

“It’s been a hard day’s night,

And we’ve been working like dogs,

It’s been a hard day’s night

We should be sleeping like logs.”

 Anniston and I were singing along at the top of our voices to the cassette I had popped into the Mini’s stereo system. We were just pulling out of the Odeon Cinema car park where we had watched the Beatles film ‘Hard Day’s Night’. We had barely got across the kerb onto the High Street when there was a ‘pop’ and the steering felt all funny. Immediately, I switched the radio off so I could think.

“Damn! Can you believe it? We have a puncture.”

“Aww crap!” exclaimed Anni in her American drawl. “Ya gotta be kiddin.  We’re late enough as it is.”

She was right. It was ten to ten and we had only ten minutes to go before curfew, when Sister Mackay would lift the snib on the latch and our keys wouldn’t let us in. We were only five minutes away but the car wasn’t steering properly and I knew it would be difficult if not impossible to make it on time to King House, named for King George V, where we lived.

“Sorry. Know anything about fixing cars?” I muttered, trying to prise my six foot two inches out of the car.

“Everything!” she boasted. “Ma two brothers and pappy taught me everything there is to know about cars, except…”

“Except how to change a wheel?” I grinned as I watched her ease her nimble five feet two inches onto the pavement.

“Dang it!” She suddenly exclaimed. “No, I was going to say that I know everything about cars; but this isn’t a car, it’s a little toy. Whatever possessed a giantess like you to buy something like this? And the ‘Dang’ was because I stepped on the remains of the broken beer bottle which shredded the tyre and also my foot!”

“Oh!” I ran around to her side. “Is it bad?”

She had taken her shoe off and we examined her foot in the yellow light from the sodium street lamp. There was only a slight nick, though as usual it dripped blood rather impressively for such a small wound.

“Hold some pressure on it, dear. You have cut your fifth Meta Tarsal Cutaneous Aorta.” I was being facetious. There is only one aorta in the human body and a cut in it would be disastrous, but it’s not near the skin. “I do not want you to bleed to death while I change the wheel.”

“Very funny,” she laughed, “and it’s metacarpal. I was studying that today.”

“Better look at that anatomy text again, my American friend. Metacarpal bones are your finger bones. You have cut the lateral side of your right foot where your fifth metaltarsal is buried.”

“Are you sure?” Then she grinned, sticking up the middle finger of her right hand. “Well, what is this one called?”

I laughed. “I know you Americans call it the bird, which makes no sense to me. But since you are in England, you might as well learn the correct way to do it,” and I stuck up two fingers in the British version of her sign.

She laughed as I rummaged through the glove box for some Kleenex.

“Here,” I said, offering her the travel sized pack. “Sit still and hold some pressure on that cut. I can change the tyre and then we should be on our way home again in a jiffy, or two.”

I opened the boot and dug out the jack and handle while Anni sat in the passenger seat nursing her foot.

Earlier that morning Anniston had suggested we should go to see a film together. We had met in nursing school and had gradually become friends. I was twenty-four years old while Anniston had just turned nineteen. We were both first years, staying in separate rooms of King House, a building that was just four houses knocked together in a terraced row to make a nurse’s home. It was just across the street from the Victoria Hospital where we spent our working hours.

We had both been at the house for a couple of months and I had gotten to know her, partly because of her American charm and, I admit, I loved her American accent. Originally from Kentucky, she had arrived on our shores just four months previously to stay with her sister who was some sort of accountant in Manchester. She had rather enjoyed the English scene and the Liverpool sound of the pop music of the mid-sixties, and wanted to stay. She had been academically quite gifted and knew that nursing might offer her a profitable career when she eventually returned back home. She had been thrilled to learn that the National Health Service of Britain would welcome her with open arms while she was learning to be a nurse; the icing on the cake being that not only would she not have to pay tuition, something that was apparently quite expensive in America, but she would also be paid while learning.

To be honest, I don’t think she had been enamoured by the idea that she would have to live on the premises and be subjected to the nursing slavery we all had to undergo, but to her credit she had left the comfortable home where her sister lived to come to the resort town of Blackpool and its Victoria Hospital. She was doing very well. She had an infective enthusiasm and, though quite tiny, was a bundle of energy and optimism that we all loved. I found her attractive, always bright and cheerful, funny with her American humour and a perfect balance to my overly serious nature.

It turned out together we were the oldest first-year students, since all the others in our class were eighteen. And I suppose the fact that we were the odd ones because she was the ‘Yank’ and I was the old spinster at twenty-four, had caused us to drift together. We usually arranged pretty much to be on the same nursing teams and shifts.

Of course, everyone complained at the workload and, just this morning as we were having breakfast in the hospital cafeteria, Anni had remarked that slavery in her country had been abandoned after their civil war and how come Britain didn’t get with the program?

I had grinned. We had just come off working a double afternoon and night shift and asked, “It’s been a Hard Day’s Night?”

“Too blawdy right!” she drawled as we trekked back to King House. Then she cocked her head in thought, “Hey did you know that flic is playing at the Odeon? Want to go and see it tonight? I adore the Beatles anyway. I bet we can have a good sing along!”

“We have a lecture at six o’clock this evening, remember? It would have to be the late show and we would still need to be home by ten.

“We can make it; oh, please Angela! It’ll be finished by 9:45 and it’s only five minutes away if we drive your car!” She had looked at me with big puppy dog eyes and I realised there was no way in hell I could say no.

So now we had a puncture right outside the cinema and I knew we would cop it when we arrived home after curfew. Such is life and it was too late to worry. Except for, the image of Sister MacKay was all too real in my mind.

I had just got the jack under the car when a Police Ford Anglia pulled up with its headlights effectively blinding me.

“Is there a problem, Miss?” said one constable, getting out of the blue and white Panda car.”

I looked at the man, wondering if he was a complete idiot. I mean would a lady be underneath a car at night, screwing with the jack just for the fun of it?

But then I thought how good looking he was and gave him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it was the first opening line every policeman learns at the Police Academy when he meets a woman under such circumstances.

I raised my hand to shield my eyes from his headlights.

“Puncture from a broken beer bottle in the kerb, which incidentally has cut my friend’s foot.”

“Oh?” he said. “Is she hurt?” Which I thought was a bit of a silly question. Hadn’t I just said she was?

“It’s nothing a sticking plaster won’t cure,” I replied.

He turned back to the other policeman in the car calling, “Police Cadet Peterson, would you mind getting the first aid kit and see if you can help the young lady in the Mini?” He then looked at me and said, “Miss, would you like me to call for the AA or RAC?”

I smiled, “Oh, thank you Sergeant, but no thanks. I can change a wheel easily enough.”

He grinned. “Sorry to disappoint, Miss, but I am only a police constable. Constable Mike Williams at your service and that,” he nodded at the handsome young boy now bending down holding Anni’s lucky leg, “is Police Cadet Graham Peterson.”

I pried the hub cap off the front wheel, loosened the wheel nuts and then jacked the wheel clear of the road surface. I could tell he was watching me, wondering if he could help, but I realised he had no idea what I was doing. I was pretty sure he didn’t know how to change a wheel. Finally, apparently quite embarrassed at watching me work he offered, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Well, if you could lift the spare wheel out of the boot it would be nice.”

“Oh, ahh, yes, err, yes, I can do that,” sounding unsure as to whether he could handle even that simple a task, but I concluded he really didn’t want to get his hands dirty! I hoped Anni was having better luck with the sticking plaster!

I changed the wheel and threw the dirty one with the puncture in the boot myself, not wishing for PC Williams to get any more uncomfortable than he already was.

Finally, as I got in my car the idiot asked, “Can we escort you anywhere?”

“No,” I replied. “Thanks, we are just going home to the Whitegate Drive nurses’ home opposite the hospital. We are late actually and past curfew.”

“You are nursing students?” he asked, trying to appear knowledgeable, though everyone in these parts knew the Victoria Hospital on Whitegate Drive. And the fact that we were young women wasn’t much of a stretch, even for him.

“Guilty as charged,” I said as I started the engine.

“Well, even though it is past your curfew, drive safely. That’s no cause to go speeding.”  He had to have the last word.

I nodded and yelled through the window. “Thank you for your help and advice, constable, and don’t worry. I’ll be very careful.”

We drove off and Anni said, “Did you see him?”

I turned and looked at her. Her eyes were almost glazed over as though she were in some fantastic dream. She couldn’t have meant the rather unimpressive Constable Williams, so I assumed it was the cadet. “Are you talking about the little want-to-be boy police cadet?” I asked, amused.

“Yeah. Wasn’t he a hunk?”

I shook my head sadly. I didn’t want to burst her bubble since I suspected that both our bubbles were about to be busted shortly. I pressed play on the cassette one more time and out came the sound,

“But when I get home to you,

I’ll find that things that you do,

Will make you feel all right!”

I could only hope that Sister Mackay would feel like that when we arrived.

She didn’t! The snib of the latch was up and our latch keys would not open the door. I looked around to see if there were any windows open as Anni said, “Couldn’t we just jimmy a window open and crawl in? It’s only classrooms on the first floor.”

I grinned. Once again, Anni’s Americanisms were wrong. I whispered, “For a start, I don’t carry a jimmy in my purse and in any case the classrooms are on the ground floor. The first floor is where your room is and mine is in the attic.

“Oh blah, blah, blah!” she drawled, a little derisively. “I don’t know why you Britts have to complicate everything so. Why have a first floor on the second floor? Crazy! So, what’re we gonna do?”

Just then the porch light came on and, after a rattling sound of the latch being operated, the door opened and there stood Sister Mackay in her nightie and dressing gown. She wasn’t smiling.

“You two had better come inside before you decide to break a window and do some real damage. Have you any idea of what time it is?”

“I’m sorry, Sister Mackay. I know we are late. We had a puncture on the way back from the cinema, otherwise we would…”

I realised she wasn’t listening. She waited until we both were inside, then she briefly looked out to make sure there was no one else on the step and closed the door, making sure the snib was once again up.

“Come with me, the both of you. We shall sort this out now.”

We followed her down the hallway, past the stairs and turned left at the corridor at the back of the house to the door of her private rooms. The door of her flat was still open and she waved us inside her hallway and then through into another room which was obviously her small dining room. I knew she had once been a ward Sister at the Victoria Hospital across the street and, though in her late fifties to early sixties, she was now retired from nursing. However, she was warden to King House where first, second and third-year female nursing students lived and for this, she received a small flat on the ground floor. She was still involved in teaching and she kept the shift schedules as well as making sure we all received our pitiful allowances. She was also a tyrant who I honestly believed enjoyed enforcing all the nit-picky rules, but in the end, I admit she knew her job and did it efficiently.

She turned to us and said, “It is nearly ten-thirty, half an hour past your curfew. In my day, you would now be dismissed and you would be out of this home first thing in the morning with your bags packed.”

Anni started to speak but, before she got a word out, Sister Mackay continued, “I do not want to hear anything from you, Miss Carson, nor you Miss Cox. In nursing, there are no excuses. When things do not go according to plan, we find out what went wrong and learn from our mistakes. But we always bear in mind that people’s lives, indeed their quality of life, is in our hands. It is a great responsibility, and excuses are worthless.

“So, you both have two options. You can either leave nursing first thing tomorrow or you can learn from your mistakes and move on. If you decide to stay, I shall punish you both or, as I say, you can go to your rooms quietly and you will have till noon tomorrow to move out and find some other career. What is it to be?”

I said simply, “I want to be a nurse no matter what. Punish me if you must. I accept responsibility for us being out late past curfew. Miss Carson was in my hands the whole time. It is not her fault.”

Sister Mackay looked at me sharply and said, “That won’t wash. You were both late. No excuses. They are irrelevant. The patient will still suffer regardless of whether there are excuses or not. You will either learn that or leave nursing.”

Anni said, “I do not want to be punished, but I want to be a nurse too. Besides, I have nowhere else to go. Can we just get it over with?”

“Very well,” said Sister Mackay. “I agree we should all get it over with so we can go to bed and get some proper rest. This way, there is a small chance you will be fresh and ready for work and studies tomorrow. That, incidentally, is why the curfew is set for ten o’clock.

“Miss Carson, you are just nineteen so you will go first. Raise that ridiculously small pelmet of material you call a miniskirt, pull your panties down and bend over my dining table. I shall give you six strokes with the heavy plimsoll. I warn you, I shall not go lightly on you but I do not want you screaming the place down and waking everyone else up. Now, do as you are told while I fetch the plimsoll.”

Poor Anni’s eyes were bugging out, and I was fairly sure she did not know that a plimsoll was a rubber-soled gym shoe ideally designed for punishing a woman’s backside. I myself had been slippered with the dreaded plimsoll several times during grammar school and was fully aware of how unpleasant such a punishment could be. I only hoped Anni was tougher than she looked. To my eyes, even though she was nineteen she was still a tiny precious thing and, somehow, I thought that a good slippering would hurt her very badly.

Sister Mackay disappeared into another room and Anni, now looking very scared, slipped her thumbs into the waistband of the black silk panties she was wearing and hesitantly lifted her skirt at the back. She wasn’t blushing the way I was looking at her uncovered bottom, but perhaps the terror that was dawning on her was masking it. Miss Mackay returned just a moment later carrying a giant plimsoll and a long crook handled three-foot-long school cane that was as thick as my index finger. She put the plimsoll and cane down on her dining table then took off her dressing gown, putting it over the back of another dining chair, rolled up the sleeve of her white cotton nightie and picked up the plimsoll.

She said, “Miss Carson, bend over the table immediately and let’s get this over with, or would you prefer to end your nursing career before it has hardly begun?”

“No, Sister,” whimpered Anni with a notable quaver in her voice, and she lowered her chest onto the table.

“Stretch your fingers out to the far edge and hold on. This is going to hurt!” commanded the older woman.

At school, I had been slippered more than a few times and had seen other girls undergo the same punishment. I was to learn that was nothing. None of the teachers at our school had been in the same league as Sister MacKay. To say that she didn’t mess around is putting it mildly. She lined the giant plimsoll up against Anni’s pert bottom cheeks and, in a flash, she raised it up high in the air and brought it crashing down on target. And yet almost before poor Anni had time to gasp, a second stroke crashed into place and then a third. A gurgling sound started to erupt from Anni as she fought what I could only imagine was truly horrible pain, and still the slipper crashed down and again and finally again. It had taken less than ten seconds and all Anni could do was gasp for breath.

She had barely had time to moan and Sister Mackay was putting the plimsoll back on the table as she said, “Well done, girl. Now stand up and pull your panties up. Let that be a lesson. When things go wrong your patients suffer. While they might not necessarily feel the pain you are feeling now, they can suffer just as much. Trust me, they will not care about excuses, just as I imagine you have lost interest in your own excuse.

“Now, Miss Cox, it is your turn. Panties down and skirt up and over the table, you go. And since you are supposed to be a mature student well past your coming of age, you will take the cane.”

I gulped, cursing the fact that the simple act of going to see a film was going to cost me so much pain. I had been caned several times in my final year at school and each time it had been truly horrible. The pain had not only been very great, it had lasted for days and the marks took a good ten to fourteen days to disappear. Both Anni and I had another double shift tomorrow, followed by another evening lecture, and I wondered how it would be possible to get through it all with my sanity intact.

I was tempted to plead my case, but Anni had already suffered her punishment with hardly a murmur and I knew she would lose faith in me if I didn’t at least attempt to take my own punishment. Trying to avoid the look Sister MacKay was giving me, I hooked my thumbs into the waistband of my panties and pushed them to my knees. Then, feeling utterly terrified and humiliated, I lifted my skirt to bare my bottom and took the spot recently vacated by my friend.

Sister Mackay said, “You are a tall girl so I need you to spread your legs so your arse is at the correct height.”

She used her own carpet slippered foot to tap the inside of my ankles so that my legs must have been almost three feet apart, making my chest almost level with her table. It was horrifying. I felt myself on lewd display and I could imagine the view that Anni and Miss MacKay had. I had never felt so humiliated and ashamed.

“Miss Cox,” continued my disciplinarian, “like your fellow conspirator here, you will receive six strokes. Once again, I suggest you hang onto the far side of the table with your fingers and do not move. Try to keep your buttocks muscles relaxed since it will decrease the bruising.  It will soon be over.”

I felt a light touch of the cold wood in the centre of my bottom, then there was that horrible swishing sound followed by a loud thwack. I had been caned at school in my final year with a slimmer and lighter weight cane and thought I knew what to expect. But I was wrong. The pain was pure white fire and my mind went numb, yet only three seconds later another stroke bit into me. I had barely begun to process the first stroke when the third hit and I groaned and reflexively my right leg tried to bend.

But my legs were so far spread I just seemed to slide to my right and Sister MacKay’s voice cracked out, “Straighten that leg!” and, before she had even finished, the fourth stroke landed and I squealed. This was immediately followed by another stroke and yet another.

I almost collapsed. I was breathing in and out with huge gasps and I had visions of what I had seen on the wards when I had observed women giving birth. Surely their pains were no worse than what I felt?

I was quite literally in agony yet Sister MacKay merely said, “Well done. Now stand up, pull your panties up and straighten your skirt and get out of my sight the pair of you. I expect you to go straight to your rooms and go to bed. I want the lights out in five minutes and I shall be checking. You will no doubt both be very sore for the next few days and it is up to you whether you let your nursing supervisors know what you have been through. They may give you a little sympathy because many of them have been through it too.

“You are both very good students but let this be a lesson. I expect all the students under my charge to behave like adults. I shall not tolerate juvenile delinquents, no matter how old they are.” She gave a sharp look at me. “Now be gone the pair of you.”

She led us into the hallway and shut her door behind us. Immediately, we both began to vigorously rub our bottoms slowly, making our way up the stairs. We climbed up to the landing on the first floor and Anni paused to go through the door into the corridor where her room was.

She turned and whispered, “That was a helluv-a beating you took, Angela. Your bottom is really marked up. Make sure you put some cold cream on it before you go to sleep.”

“That was one hell of a beating you took too. That plimsoll was huge. She gave you everything as hard and as fast as she could. Your bottom is black and blue and dreadfully swollen. You must be in agony.”

She smiled and came back up to me and threw her hands around my neck as I bent down towards her, and we gave each other a hug.

“Yeah, it wasn’t much fun. But you know what they say?”

I looked at her puzzled.

Then she grinned, whispering, “It’s not so nice being slippered, but it is nice having been slippered,” and she winked at me as we released ourselves from our hug and she went through the door into the first-floor corridor.

I grinned and shook my head in puzzlement, and carried on up to my own room in the attic. My own thought was that it was horrible being caned and that tomorrow I would still be in agony!

The End

© Angela Fox 2018

Angela welcomes contact from her readers. Email her at:

The above story is the first chapter of a new novella “Top & Bottom” by Angela Fox. If any reader would care to offer their comments regarding the above story, Ms Fox would be pleased once again to send them a copy of the full novella.