Marilyn Austin

Gartshore Residence, South Street, Old Victoria Hospital


My name is Marilyn Austin, I’m a graduate of the Victoria Hospital School of Nursing, 1967. I am standing in front of the Gartshore Residence, South Street, Victoria Hospital.

I remember my mother driving me to South Street, September ’64, on my birthday. So that was my 19th birthday. I remember my mother was very anxious about leaving me there, I mean a lot of run down houses, the one way streets, I was not sure I wanted to be left there. And immediately, like there’s 130 people who are very anxious and not wanting their mother or father or both parents leave them, just ended up talking to a couple of girls who were from Galt. And so we have been friends since 1964. You were put in the areas of residence as per you fit into the alphabetical listing. So the A’s and B’s and C’s got put together. So you would become friendly with a person’s name if they were Black, and somebody else if they were Brown, and my maiden name was Binning, so that’s sort of how you made your friends.

And upstairs, you walk through a lounge to get out onto the deck. It was common for people to go up and sit on the top, there was a tar roof, and soak up the sun. And that looked across into the operating rooms across the way. In the days, before we knew about the harmful effects of sun, slather down with baby oil on a tar roof, you might be working three to eleven, so you’d be up there eight or nine in the morning, and soak up till about one or one thirty.  Because you didn’t have money to spend and you were obviously not out.

Most of the time I was compliant with what the rules were. It was a very cloistered environment. Men were not allowed in the residence. Your father was not allowed in the residence. So he, I think he was allowed to come into the Gartshore lounge, but that was it. They were not allowed in your rooms. I think there probably are stories of people who did get males into their rooms. But it was this very sort of spartan room, facing the Medical School. So there was no sunlight coming into the room, small little room. So it was pretty, pretty scary for the first little while. I don’t think I ever broke down into tears and said my parents had to come and get me. You just know that you have to adjust to this and this is what your future is going to be.