A Canadian Family

First Nations, French Canadians & Acadians

“The Alex” by Catherine Cormier

A few years ago I published this vintage postcard of  Alexandra Hospital in Pointe-St-Charles  (and a related post about Queen Alexandra).  Catherine Cormier was generous enough to share these lovely (though poignant) memories of her time there as a student nurse. Thank you so much!

Guest Post by Catherine Cormier

I was a student nurse at “The Alex” for 6 weeks during the summer of 1963. I well remember the children with whooping cough and I know we had at least one infant who was only five weeks old! I also took care of several children suffering from severe impetigo. First thing in the morning a nurse would have to scrub the lesions to remove scabs before applying an ointment. It was heart rending to have to make a child go through the process.

Tuberculosis was largely treated outside the hospitals in those days. With the discovery of antibiotics TB treatment had become possible in the community. An old iron lung was demonstrated for the students. There was one TB patient left – a little boy of 3 or 4 years who lived at the hospital. He had been sent, for treatment, from the far north a year or more before. Although he had recovered there was some problem in sending him home so he just lived in the hospital and was thoroughly institutionalized, but the pet of the staff.

Miss Jenny Wren was the much feared, martinet of a head nurse on one ward. Woe betide the student who did not meet her standards!

Miss Winnifred McLeod, a graduate of the Royal Victoria Hospital, was the Director of Nursing. We students had our meals in the Nurses’ Dining Room and I remember we could not be seated until Miss McLeod swept majestically in to the room, (followed by her staff), led us in Grace, and took her seat. We could not leave until Miss McLeod stood and signalled that the meal was over. I believe that we students generally liked and respected Miss McLeod.

“The Alex” had its own ambulance; a battered green van sited for patient transport. Louis, the driver, loved his ambulance and drove at top speed, frequently the wrong way on one-way streets, with the siren blaring! I have vivid memories of a trip to the Montreal Children’s Hospital to pick up a child with measles. It was a harrowing trip with Louis obviously enjoying himself as he drove like a mad man!

“The Alex” was an interesting place for a student nurse in that summer of 1963.


Image Source:

McGill,  Alexandra Hospital for Infection Diseases [1904-11]


May 31, 2017 - Posted by | .


  1. Thank you for sharing this grt article i really enjoy reading your posts Judy


    Comment by Judy Rice | May 31, 2017 | Reply

  2. I have an ongoing research project on the Alexandra Hospital and am collecting stories about this hospital!! I can share a draft of my paper with many historical details. If anyone would like to contribute feel free to email me at : kileygoyette@gmail.com

    Je suis en train de faire un projet recherche sur l’Hopital Alexandra. Je voudrais rassembler les histoires ou souvenirs des patients, des infirmières etcetera,; Je peux vous partager une version préliminaire de ma papier. Merci de m’écrire à kileygoyette@gmail.com


    Comment by Kiley | June 1, 2017 | Reply

  3. For Ms. Cormier: I was in school with a R. Cormier back in the 1960’s in the US. Are you by chance related to him? pouliot[at]catholicexchange.com (replace “[at]” with usual symbol)


    Comment by Ray | June 9, 2017 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s