Lou Ann Larsen Thurgood
Interviewed by Marci Farr
17 November 2008
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Lou Ann Larsen Thurgood
17 November 2008
Copyright © 2009 by Weber State University, Stewart Library
The Oral History Program of the Stewart Library was created to preserve the institutional history of Weber
State University and the Davis, Ogden and Weber County communities. By conducting carefully
researched, recorded, and transcribed interviews, the Oral History Program creates archival oral histories
intended for the widest possible use.
Interviews are conducted with the goal of eliciting from each participant a full and accurate account of
events. The interviews are transcribed, edited for accuracy and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewees
(as available), who are encouraged to augment or correct their spoken words. The reviewed and
corrected transcripts are indexed, printed, and bound with photographs and illustrative materials as
available. Archival copies are placed in Special Collections. The Stewart Library also houses the original
recording so researchers can gain a sense of the interviewee's voice and intonations.
The Dee School of Nursing was founded in 1910 to provide training for nurses who would staff the new
Dee Memorial Hospital. The first class of eight nurses graduated from the school in 1913 and the school
continued to operate until 1955, with a total of more than 700 graduates. A new nursing school and home
located just east of the hospital was completed in 1917 and all nursing students were required to live in
the home during their training.
This oral history project was created to capture the memories of the school's alumni before their stories
disappear in the same way the Dee Hospital has disappeared. The oral interviews focus on how the
women became involved with the school, their experiences going through training, and how they used the
Oral history is a method of collecting historical information through recorded interviews between a
narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well-informed interviewer, with
the goal of preserving substantive additions to the historical record. Because it is primary material, oral
history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events. It is a spoken
account. It reflects personal opinion offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as such it
is partisan, deeply involved, and irreplaceable.
All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to
the Stewart Library of Weber State University. No part of the manuscript may be
published without the written permission of the University Librarian. Requests for
permission to publish should be addressed to the Administration Office, Stewart
Library, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah, 84408. The request should include
identification of the specific item and identification of the user.
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Lou Ann Larsen Thurgood, an oral history by
Marci Farr, 17 November 2008, WSU
Stewart Library Oral History Program,
Special Collections, Stewart Library, Weber
State University, Ogden, UT.
Lou Ann Larsen
Class of 1955
Lou Ann Larsen Thurgood
Abstract: This is an oral history interview with Lou Ann Larsen Thurgood. It was
conducted November 17, 2008 and concerns her recollections and experiences
with the Dee School of Nursing. The interviewer is Marci Farr.
MF: It is November 17, 2008. We are interviewing Lou Ann Thurgood, correct?
LT: Yes, I was a Larsen then.
LT: Lou Ann Larsen.
MF: She graduated with the Dee School of Nursing in 1955. We are interviewing her
via the telephone from her home in New Mexico.
LT: Albuquerque, New Mexico.
MF: Tell us a little bit about your early life, your family, where you grew up, and where
you went to school.
LT: I was born in Huntsville, Utah. I was born at the Dee Hospital. When I was
about five years old we moved to Salt Lake and then to Ogden and eventually
MF: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
LT: Five brothers, three of them are older, two of them are younger. No sisters. Just
the nurses, they were my sisters.
MF: Where did you attend school at?
LT: I attended school at Weber County High School in Ogden, Utah.
MF: What made you decide to become a nurse?
LT: My senior year of high school, because I needed funds, I worked as a nurse aid
at the Dee Hospital. Then the option came out that they had a three year
scholarship that you could apply for. I applied for it because I didn’t have any
funds to go to school and so I got my three year scholarship and that is how I
ended up at Dee Hospital, and it was close to my home in North Ogden, Utah.
MF: And you were familiar with the hospital.
LT: I was kind of familiar with it a little bit, because I had worked the previous year
there part time as a nurses’ aid. So that was very helpful to me.
MF: Did you take any assessments before you entered school? Were there any pre-requirements
for you to become part of the school, to become a nurse?
LT: I think it was mostly all taken care of through the scholarship program. I qualified
for the scholarship so that was just kind of automatic.
MF: What were your impressions when you first walked in the hospital, when you
LT: Well it was kind of frightening. You walk in the nursing home first of all. There
were all these people you didn’t know, however, there was one I did know
because she was also working as a nurses aid and further down the line we
became roommates. She was from Canada so I didn’t really know her other than
I had seen her at the hospital when we both worked there. It was really
frightening. I remember I hid up in my closet and put the clothes away and
stayed there for awhile. Many of them visited downstairs.
MF: What were some of the first things you started doing when you were first in the
LT: We started out with nursing arts and classes; most of it was at the hospital but
some of it we walked down to Weber College, which it was called then.
MF: Who was your housemother at that time?
LT: It was N. H. Peterson, she was a nice lady.
MF: Was she strict or was she easygoing?
LT: She was fairly easy going. If you stayed out too late and all those types of
things, she could get a little unpleasant about it.
MF: Tell us who your roommate was.
LT: My roommate was Leona Gibbs. Brown is what her name is now. She was from
Canada so we came from different places for sure.
MF: Do you remember some of the rules you had to follow while you were in nurses
LT: Mainly things like keep the rooms clean because they inspected it periodically.
And, of course, you were to be in your rooms by ten o’clock at night and the
noise at a minimum.
MF: So did you feel that since you were the last class that the rules were a little more
LT: I don’t think they relaxed that much. I think it was pretty much the same. Maybe
we did know that we were the last class, I don’t remember knowing that but
maybe we did our last year or so.
MF: What were some of your favorite classes you took while you were in training?
LT: Bacteriology, Pediatrics Nursing Arts I found interesting, and Biology. Those are
the types of things I just enjoyed. There was one place in my records where I ran
into a paper that I had written down, the first week that we were in there. The
first day we enrolled at the school and the Junior nurses kept us up most of the
night doing exercises.
MF: Oh. initiation.
LT: Yes, this went on all week. The second day we had our Nursing Arts class at
7:30 AM and toured the hospital. In the afternoon they had a little party in the
auditorium and they kept us up that night too. The third day the initiation
continued. We had to polish the Senior’s shoes, we registered at Weber College,
I guess we walked down there at 8:00 AM and studied for the Nursing Arts test.
The fourth day we dressed as Musketeers for initiation and we didn’t get much
sleep that day. The fifth day we walked back and forth to classes at Weber
College four times that day. The sixth day they had Kangaroo Court. We had to
recite something or eat onions. Then they had a banquet for us. That was our
first week in nurse’s training.
MF: If you had a night off, what was something you would do?
LT: If there was a movie or something, that was kind of rare, sometimes we would go
get something to eat or a date now and then. Of course, my parents lived nearby
so I could go visit them. They lived in North Ogden. One of the things I
remembered or ran into in my pictures was in the winter time we would take the
bedpans and slide down the hills right there by the nurse’s home. Those little
hills there, we could go out and ride on the bedpans.
MF: They probably worked well, didn’t they? Tell us about some of your instructors
that you had while you were in the program.
LT: Louise Scoville was the Assistant Director. Marie Donaldson was the Educational
Director. Leona Maas was the Surgical Director and Ruth Brown was the
Medical Director. And Ursul Hawkes was the class advisor. But Louise Scoville
helped us out quite a bit. I have the picture of when I got my cap. She is the one
that put my cap on my head during the capping ceremony.
MF: Tell us about your capping ceremony. When you got your cap, tell us a little bit
LT: We first of all repeated the Nightingale pledge. In the picture we kneeled on a
little pillow. We had a candle lit in a candleholder in our hand and she came and
put the cap upon our head. It was very special. It showed you were making
progress. You were doing something, now you got to wear a hat.
MF: How long had you been in the program?
LT: Six months. Probees…that is what we were called when we started out. You
know, like probationary? There were twenty-six probees that started. By the
second year there were eighteen. The last year actually there were nineteen of
us that graduated one transfer.
MF: Tell us about some of your favorite doctors you worked with.
LT: I didn’t like doctors too much. I can think of Lindsey Curtis. I think he was an
OBGYN, I got along with him alright but I did not like surgery. My experiences
from surgery were that I was always contaminating everything or the doctors
were hollering at you. It was difficult in surgery, they were always irritated. I
stayed away from them as much as possible.
MF: That probably saved a lot of stress?
LT: Yes, it worked best for me to be with patients.
MF: Tell us one of your greatest challenges that you faced while you were in the
LT: It was more towards the end when I was about ready to graduate, it was in
pediatrics and that is one division that I liked very much. We had a little girl in
there, about eighteen months old, or maybe a little bit older, who had
hydrocephalus and was doing very, very, very poor. At the time, I was shift
coordinator and I had to call the parents and tell them that she had passed on.
So that was hard. There wasn’t a doctor there or any one else, it was late at
MF: So you had to take care of it yourself.
LT: Yes, and that was probably most difficult message I had to give, although they
were expecting it!
MF: That would be very hard.
LT: Other than that, sometimes difficult patients or grouchy ones. Some of the men
got pretty grouchy I think.
MF: Do you think that your training at the Dee Hospital made a difference on your
being able to get a job, because of the quality of your training?
LT: Oh yes, definitely. I worked at the hospital, I think, as soon as I graduated we
stayed and worked until March. I got married in March but up until then I stayed
and worked up in Pediatrics.
MF: After you got married, did you stay at the Dee? What did you do after you
LT: After we got married we went to Salt Lake and so I worked at LDS Hospital for
about a year and then my husband got into Dental School so we went back to St.
Louis and I worked three years there at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital in St.
Louis, Missouri. After that he was in the United States Military Service which
transferred us every 2-3 years, so our first assignment was New Orleans. I didn’t
When we got to Zuni New Mexico…don’t know if you have heard that but
it’s an Indian Pueblo there. They had a big flu epidemic so they asked me to
come and work there. So I worked there for a period of time too. But after about
1966 I didn’t continue in nursing at hospital, but I continued at home. I felt it was
very beneficial for my family and me because, you know, I could take care of a lot
of problems that I would have had to run to the doctor for.
MF: How do you think nursing has changed over the years?
LT: Too much. I think the main thing is all the mechanical, you know, computerized.
Of course, it has improved in a lot of ways but I think there is less bedside care.
Now it is over the telecom they see what is going on without coming in for
MF: Do you still keep in contact with your classmates?
LT: Yes. We have done pretty well. We have had a fifty year reunion in 2005. I
have been to probably two others besides that but there are several of my
classmates up there in Utah and some that I still keep in contact with. Especially
my roommate, I keep in contact with her. There is about six, seven, or eight of
them that we keep in contact with at least once a year.
MF: Now when you talk to Leona, will you mention to her what our project is …
LT: She hasn’t signed up yet?
MF: She hasn’t. So if you would like to ask her, to get in contact with us. We are not
going to do interviews until January because with holidays and everything going
on that would be great.
LT: I know Pauline Anhder…I talked to her about it. After I sent that off to you I
thought, maybe it is too late so I sent her an email and she said I haven’t even
got mine in yet. So she is aware of it.
MF: We have talked to her we just need to get in contact with her but we are going to
wait until the first of the year.
LT: It is just hard to fit everything in, and that is kind of why I ended up doing it now.
MF: Yes, it worked out perfect, I am glad you have been able to stay in contact with
your classmates because you were so close.
LT: Yes at our fifty year reunion we just had a marvelous time. It was so fantastic. It
was perfection. As a group we went to a home by ourselves and spent the whole
MF: Now is that when you went to Edna’s house?
LT: Yes it was.
MF: We just interviewed her a couple weeks ago. She mentioned that so that it was
LT: Yes, it was just really super. You just were floating on air. I was going to
mention one more thing, along with our training and so forth, we also had six
weeks at the Tuberculosis Sanatorium. We went there and stayed there. It was
quite an experience! Fortunately medications have improved so it is closed now.
And then we had a three month period time down at the Mental Hospital down in
MF: How was that?
LT: Ooh scary. You had to watch what was going on, somebody could grab you by
the head, or pull your hair, or be very unpredictable.
MF: That would make you a little nervous.
LT: I was nervous but, you know, on the job it was very informative.
MF: You were learning as you were going.
LT: Yes, being in the program that we were, we were on hospital duty when we
weren’t in classes.
MF: Yes, and I think that helped reinforce what you learned in class.
LT: I say on the floor in more ways than one. We were worn out but had great
MF: That is true and that probably just solidified everything you were taught.
LT: Yes, there was one little frustration we had when we started the two year
program. Here were these students that were graduated (two years) in June of
the same year (1955) and we had to wait until September. We were the shift
coordinators and they were working there and getting paid for it.
MF: That is true.
LT: Yes, three months, July, August, September, October. Yes, it was a frustration
LT: When they started the Weber State College two year program in 1953 they made
a little folder advertising for it. I don’t have my copy of it but my picture was on
there and I thought it was LuAnn Secrist, now I’m not sure positively. But we
were on the folder recruiting students to our program. So if you happen to run
into one of those I want a copy.
MF: So it was the program for ’53.
LT: Yes that was the year. They started in ’53 I guess. We graduated in ’55 and we
were the last. They were the first ones to graduate that same year in June.
MF: We will check it out and see what we can find.
LT: That would be fun.
MF: Yes, that is great. Well I appreciate you letting us talk with you and get your
interview in and hope you have a great holiday and everything goes well in your
LT: Well thank you and I appreciate your being involved in this project here. I feel
like we are not totally forgotten now as the Dee Hospital School of Nursing. I
was senior class President and gave the student address at graduation
September 17, 1955.
MF: That is why we are doing it.
LT: That is exactly right.
MF: Thank you Lou Ann for taking time to talk with us. We really appreciate it so
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