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American History
Job Changes

       Today, January 2005, the heavy stone buildings jut up into the air lending a mystery about the secrets they hold.  The people of the small towns around them ask why and what happened to this place? It was a township registered under the states legal status as such. How did it become stark and desolate as it now is?  Pigeons fly in and out of the inside spaces of the old stone structures and this adds to the strange loneliness. There is something in the nature of people to want to know if there were dark secrets of abuse or mistreatment to the students. Those who walk about and through the buildings on a rare occasions are still kept out of what is now almost like sacred ground with only ghostly records of steps and dreams of so many people.

       “There must have been dark secrets?”  Some come right out and ask.

      In my mind I go back over my days there as a student and try to remember something that could have been considered deficient in some way. In the year 1956 as I went from the job of at the principal's office to working in the infirmary would be the closest to anything considered a bit “off the wall.”

      I walked up the wide steps, across the very broad front porch of the old colonial type architecture of the building  housing the clinic and what was called the hospital for the school. The extra wide entry door was suddenly thrown open.  The person standing inside the door swung it wide before I could turn the door knob. This left me immediately in front of the older woman who was head-nurse. When I was a student there were many times we had to go through the place for this or that inoculation or physical and it was then I became acquainted with the woman. Her always sharp nursing cap stood stiffly away from her wisps of grey hair beneath it. A person as snow white in complexion as the cold climate of her Norwegian landscape everyone would sooner or later  know about greeted me this morning. The thick heavy accent of her native land came through in almost guteral speech at times and her favorite expression was, “my little dar links,” as she liked to call the student patients who came through. She turned away from me to walk toward the office where I was to work and her age became obvious to me. She had a gait telling of arthritis in her hips or back. If not for the sturdy, low,  nurse's shoes it might have been a problem. She never married but now somehow or another one wanted to believe she was an old grandmother with buxom stature and heavy hips. This was all a studied, brilliant way of covering over what was probably the most despotic personality one might ever know. She was old, angry, unmarried, about to retire and just generally at a bad place with the world.

      I had fought my way through the in's and out's of the school to keep a good record. The time spent in the junior college was even more of a struggle with no money, second jobs and working to keep up the same pace I had at Chilocco. Taking part in school activities wasn't as easy. I was always having to rely on people for rides to choir practice, working in the concessions stands at the ball games or any other activity. There was no arrangement or scheduled time for a student on a working scholarship for eating at the cafeteria simply because I was never there at the right time. At times the activities and the studies left me in precarious situations but somehow or another there was always someone there to help me get through it. If I was bitter toward the other students who sailed through so easily I don't remember it. I was just satisfied to have a warm room at Chilocco where I could sleep and study. Even though there might be several days before I could find a way to eat it didn't matter.  The moment always happened and sooner or later there would be food.

       Here I was again with the same thing happening. There was no way I could have known about this head nurse but in my youth it didn't matter. It was a job, I had a place to stay and I was helping my family since my Dad had been injured at work resulting in him being literally on his back in bed. There was no such thing as workman's comp. in those days. A man without work was just that;  without work and without income.

       Consequently, my youth, sense of humor, my family and friends were there for me and the time spent at the clinic was just one more unpleasant little experience. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Return to Donna's Chilocco Page


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