Carmen Mae Abram Wall
Interviewed by Marci Farr
21 September 2010
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Carmen Mae Abram Wall
21 September 2010
Copyright © 2010 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
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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 St. Benedict’s School of Nursing was founded in 1947 by the Sisters of Mount Benedict. The school
operated from April 1947 to 1968. Over the forty-one year period, the school had 605 students and 357
graduates. In 1966, the program became the basis for Weber State College’s Practical Nursing Program.
This oral history project was created to capture the memories of the graduates and to add to the history of
nursing education in Ogden. The interviews focus on their training, religion, and experiences working
with doctors, nurses, nuns, and patients at St. Benedict’s Hospital. This project received funding from the
Utah Humanities Council and the Utah Division of State History.
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.
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Carmen Mae Abram Wall, an oral history by
Marci Farr, 21 September 2010, WSU
Stewart Library Oral History Program,
Special Collections, Stewart Library, Weber
State University, Ogden, UT.
Carmen Mae Abram Wall
Class of 1966
Carmen Mae Abram Wall
Abstract: This is an oral history interview with Carmen Mae Abram Wall, conducted
by Marci Farr and Sarah Langsdon, on September 21, 2010. In this interview,
Carmen discusses her recollections and experiences with the St. Benedict’s
School of Nursing.
MF: This is Marci Farr. We are interviewing Carmen Wall. She graduated from St.
Benedict’s School of Nursing in 1966. It’s September 21, 2010. We are
interviewing via telephone. You live in St. George, right?
CW: Yes, I do.
MF: Okay. Will you just share with us about where you grew up, a little about your
family and where you attended school?
CW: I grew up in Superior, Wyoming. That’s where I went to school. I went there from
Kindergarten until I was a junior. In my Senior year, the school closed down
because it was a coal mining community and they stopped using coal at that
time, more or less. All the mines closed down so the school closed down. For my
senior year I had to go to Rock Springs, Wyoming. That’s where I graduated in
MF: So did you have to move away from your family?
CW: No. The bus took us. I was born in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Rock Springs is
eighteen miles away and is the bigger of the two communities and Superior didn’t
have a hospital. So that’s where I was born but I was raised in Superior until I
graduated and then went on to school at St. Benedict’s.
MF: Oh, that’s good. Tell us a little bit about your family.
CW: I have four brothers and one sister. I’m the sixth. I’m the oldest. My sister is
thirteen years younger. She’s the youngest of the family. So growing up, I really
didn’t get to know her well because she born when I was thirteen and before I
knew it I was out of school. We are really close but growing up we sure weren’t.
My dad worked in the coal mines before he married my mother and he had a lot
of jobs. He worked most of the time as a butcher in the little shop in Superior.
Then from there he went to work for the school system as a janitor and at one
time he even owned a little store in Superior where his line of work was being a
butcher. People would bring their deer and elk and he would cut it up for them for
a price. We would help him taking out the bone and the fat and all that. That was
our job, me and my brothers. We did a lot of that ourselves.
MF: So how did you end up coming to St. Benedict’s?
CW: My dad really wanted me to be a nurse. Some of his friends that he knew were
nurses. His mother died of cancer of the throat and he had taken care of her. In
fact, he didn’t graduate from high school. In his senior year she was really sick
and his dad had to work to pay all the bills so he ended up quitting school and
taking care of her so he was really aware of the medical profession. He saw how
the doctors and the nurses worked. Some of the nurses became friends of his so
he convinced himself that I would make a really good nurse. I felt like I wanted to
make his wishes come true. I wasn’t really too sure if I wanted to do that or go
and do something in mathematics. I loved math but then my choice came to be a
MF: Was this your first time away from home?
CW: Yes it was. We were very poor. We didn’t have a lot. Even to do any travelling,
we didn’t do any travelling. My dad has two brothers and a sister and the two
brothers moved to California so I think through the entire time I was growing up
we might have went out there twice to see them. On my mother’s side, her family
lived in Colorado and Riverton, Wyoming. I think we went maybe a couple of
times to see my mother’s side of the family, my grandparents. We didn’t do a lot
of travelling and to be alone-this was the first time I was ever alone.
MF: I’m sure that was probably an adjustment. Tell us what your first impressions
were when you first entered nurses training.
CW: I was very close to my dad and called home very frequently and was crying and
wanted to go home. We went home quite a bit. Dana Dona lived in Rock Springs
and she had a car so her being in my class and that, we would go home probably
at least once a month. She would take me. My dad would pick me up from Rock
Springs so we could spend the weekend together. That was nice of her.
MF: So who was your roommate while you were in training?
CW: Let’s see. You know, I can’t remember. I think Mary Weibel was for a year. One
of the ones that I had for a roommate, she ended up quitting in the first year that I
went to school there. You had a curfew and she didn’t obey the curfew because
her family lived in Ogden so she would go in the evenings to be with her family
but she wasn’t meeting the curfew. She would get back to the dorm maybe at ten
thirty or eleven o’clock. I really don’t even know why she quit. I don’t know if it
was due to grades or she didn’t like it there or they asked her to go. One time
she didn’t show up so for the rest of that year I had the room by myself. In my
junior year I believe I had Mary Weibel and then I can’t remember the last year.
MF: Do you remember any of your other classmates?
MF: Tell us a little bit about them.
CW: Linda Smith was a classmate of mine. She would come to Wyoming with me on
some of the weekends that I had off. Dana would bring us up and sometimes
there would be Linda Smith and Jeanie Campos and me and Dana. We were the
four that would go home on the weekend. There was also a girl by the name of
Virginia and I can’t remember her last name. She was from Rock Springs but she
quit the program. Then some weekends I went to Smithfield. That’s where Linda
Smith lived and I would go with her and stay with her on the weekends. Other
weekends there was some very good friends of mine that I went to school with in
Wyoming and they moved to Ogden the same year I started St. Benedict’s. It
made it really convenient because they were there. One of them was a senior in
high school when I started nurses training and they moved down here the same
year I started nurses training so I would go stay with them once in awhile.
So anyway, Jeanie Campos was a friend. Linda Smith, Dana Dona and
Diane Cafarelli, Linda Ledett, Mary Weibel. I think we only graduated twelve or
MF: Oh, so a small group.
CW: Yes. So already I’ve named quite a few of them.
MF: So do you have any stories of you guys sneaking out or doing things you
CW: You know I don’t think we snuck out. On the weekends you could stay out a little
later so we would go to dances. We didn’t do much. I mean, I didn’t. If I didn’t go
home then I stayed at the dorm and studied or go see Helen Normington. She
was my girlfriend from Rock Springs. I would go see her on the weekends but I
wouldn’t even stay there because she lived in Ogden so I would just go for the
day and visit with her and we would go shopping. Then I’d stay at her house for
awhile and then I’d go back to the dorms. No, I don’t think we did a lot of that.
The ones that seemed to do that were the ones that really never even stayed.
They were the ones that ended up quitting. Most of us we didn’t do that.
We had Sister Cassian and she was really rough. She accused people of
lots of weird things. I remember she called me in once and accused me of
stealing irons. We had to iron our uniform. I said, “I have my own iron. Why would
I want to steal other peoples irons?” She had some problems. It was best not to
cause any hassle with her because was already making accusations that I didn’t
feel were true. Other people had problems with her and Sister Berno took her
place. She was so nice. Things kind of changed after she left.
Once a week, the friends that I named, if we were there on a Friday or a
Saturday we would go down two or three blocks to a place where we had pizza
and stuff like that. We would go down there and eat pizza and cokes for a treat to
ourselves. I still keep in touch with Jeanie Campos. She’s the only one I seem to
know where she is at and we talk on the phone.
MF: Oh, that’s good. I’m glad. What else do you remember about the other Sisters
that were at the school?
CW: Who was the tall one? Do you remember any of them?
MF: I don’t. Sister Mercy? Sister Estelle?
CW: I can’t remember. She was real tall and one time I remember seeing her without
the top of her habit on and she had really long hair I remember. At one time I
heard they all shaved their heads because it was cooler for them. I guess they
said some of them would do that but like her, she had really long hair. I
remember we played, we would have parties on the back lawn of the dorm and
we would play red rover and she would get right in and play. She wasn’t afraid to
get in there. Some of the other nuns too would get in there and play too. We
would have hot dogs and hamburgers and that was nice they treated us to that.
Every once in awhile, once a year we had a sit down dinner with the nuns and all
the students. I remember that. I remember we always had the same thing. It was
always chicken. They said, watch whatever the head nun-what was her name?
Oh, I’ve been sick so my mind is not really clear. I got Leukemia about seven
years ago so I’m still recuperating from the Leukemia.
MF: Oh, you’re fine.
CW: Anyway, the main nun would sit there and we would say if she uses her knife to
cut her chicken then that’s what you’re supposed to do. But the rest of us all got
wings and we would say well how in the heck do you cut a piece of wing with a
knife and a fork? I remember we would sit there and complain about that.
MF: That’s funny.
CW: So we would have that once a year. Two or three times a year we would have
parties on the lawn where we would play some games and have a picnic like
MF: Well that’s good. Was it nice to see the Sisters in that atmosphere? Did that help
getting to know them?
CW: Yes, because I’m Catholic and being from a little tiny town, we didn’t have a
Catholic school or anything. They did in Rock Springs. We had what they call
PCD and they would come out and teach us during the summer months. We
would have two weeks religious instructions. Those nuns always were very strict
it seems like. That’s what I knew about nuns and then to go down here and be
around a lot of them, I was kind of surprised. I was surprised to see how gentle
and kind they could be with patients and things that this that they took care of.
MF: So what were some of your favorite classes that you took while you were in
CW: I liked pharmacology. I liked ethics. I absolutely hated the psychiatric portion of it
and I didn’t care for pediatrics. We went to Denver for our pediatric training.
That’s where I met my husband. He was in the military. In fact Jeanie Campos
and I met them downtown and they asked us out and we went out with them
once and it continued so Jeanie married the man she was dating there and I
married the guy I was going with there too. So they were friends, so maybe that’s
why we still keep in touch because our husbands knew each other. That made it
nice. Then we had part of our psychiatric training in Salt Lake City. They had the
barracks up on the campus that were closed down at the time so they used some
of those classrooms. That’s where we had our psychiatric classes. Of course,
hands on was done at St. Benedict’s. I couldn’t comprehend or understand the
MF: That would be hard.
CW: I could not get a hold of what was going on. I didn’t like that. That was my least
favorite. I did like anatomy.
MF: So do you remember any of your instructors?
CW: I don’t know if Sister Cassian taught a class or not. I know for ethics I think we
had a priest. I just can’t remember.
MF: Do you remember what your favorite rotation was while you were at the hospital?
What was your favorite floor to work on?
CW: The surgical medical floor.
MF: Why was that?
CW: The nurse that was in charge of that floor I just thought she was a very special
person. She was very knowledgeable. She was very good with her patients and
she had a good rapor with the doctors. I don’t remember her name but I would
look at her and say now this is the type of nurse I want to be. I want to be a nurse
like her. By the name, one of my instructors was Mrs. Etcheverry. She was kind
of strict. She taught OBGYN. I kind of liked OBGYN. She was one of the
MF: Do you have any memories of a patient that you cared for while you were in
CW: I had an uncle that was a patient there while I was there. I had a younger guy,
our age. I mean I was 21 and he was 28. He asked me out and you couldn’t do
that. You couldn’t go out with one of your patients and he was persistent on it.
Eventually after he had left and several months later I ended up going out with
him a couple of times. After I felt like they wouldn’t remember the patient. They
frowned upon that. I can’t remember his name.
MF: So tell us a little bit about your graduation ceremony and where it took place.
CW: It took place-they have Catholic churches down there and it took place at one of
the churches and I just remember that our uniforms were very stiff. They had to
be starched. I remember us, Diane Casterelli, Jeanie and all of us, we wanted
everything to be perfect. We all got flowers. I remember that. It was a beautiful
ceremony. We all had everything white and then you had the St. Benedict’s cape.
MF: What do you think your greatest challenge was while you were in nurses
CW: To get through the psychiatric class.
MF: That’s what a lot of the nurses have said.
CW: Really? I hated it. I just could not comprehend it. One of the classmates in my
class ended up specializing in the psychiatric department. She was from Brigham
City and she ended up going back there and was head of that department. She
really enjoyed it. The rest of us absolutely hated it. To each his own I guess.
MF: Absolutely. That’s why it works out that way. After graduation, did you stay at St.
Benedict’s? What did you do?
CW: I went to Rollings, Wyoming with Jeanie Campos. We both got jobs out there so
we worked through the summer and then we had met those boys the previous
winter so I got married like a year from when I met him. I don’t know when she
got married but then we moved. He was in the military, the Air Force in Denver
so we went to Denver. I can’t remember what Jeanie and her husband did. I
didn’t work in Denver. He only had three months. From there were moved to
Albuquerque and I worked in Albuquerque. Then we went to Minnesota and he
went to Browning Institute to be an announcer. I went to work there while he went
to school. From there we went to Wyoming and from there we came to Saint
George. I worked at all these different places as we moved around.
MF: So are you still working or did you retire?
CW: I retired about six or seven years ago.
MF: What do you think has been the greatest change as far as nursing?
CW: There’s been so many changes. I worked in Wyoming and nurses seemed to
have done a lot of hands on. You know how they used to put, like if you had a
bowel obstruction they would take a mercury ball and you would swallow it like
you were putting down a G tube. At the bottom of the G tube was this mercury
ball and that would pass through the intestinal tract so you had to turn the patient
ever so often. You’d turn them to their left and to their right and then eventually,
usually it would come out and the bowel obstruction would be resolved. Nurses
would do that in Wyoming. They would start IV’s. They were doing butterfly
needles and at that time doctors were supposed to do them. Nurses weren’t
supposed to do those kind of procedures. In Wyoming because the state is small
and there weren’t that many nurses that did all that. Now, nurses put in central
lines. That’s a huge change. I don’t think they even used mercury anymore for
bowel obstructions. Now, doing central lines and they wouldn’t even let them do
MF: So it has changed quite a bit.
CW: Yes. It’s funny. I’ve taken continual education trainings throughout my career to
learn how to do all of these things just to keep up with all the changes.
MF: There’s quite a bit. We appreciate you letting us visit with you today.
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