Mrs. Shearer: Miss Crook and Dr. Watson deserve a great deal of credit for what they did. They were on call twenty-four hours a day. No baby was ever delivered in that hospital without Miss Crook there, whether the doctor was there or not. Dr. Watson was called to an enormous territory here. When he was called he went, no matter who you were or where you lived. As for payment, he didn’t consider it at all, which was very unfortunate for his family later on. I can particularly remember his going over to the Clayhurst area across the Peace River when that community was just opening up. We were at that time at the end of the road at Shearerdale. Dr. Watson had driven by team and cutter as far as us. He was nearly frozen. When he got thawed out he took our team. I don’t know how far beyond the river he went to attend the patient. It was someone in great need. Then he drove back twenty miles. [the return trip was over 100 miles] He did that in the middle of winter when the weather was thirty below zero. And at that time we had no roads at all. There was a trail as far as our place but no further. That was in 1931 or 32.
Mrs Calverley: As late as that?
Mrs Shearer: Oh, yes. I came to the country in 1928. Jack was born in 28, and we moved to the homestead after that. I know that at that time, no matter who you were or what you were, that man would help you. Sometimes he wasn’t in very good condition himself, he was so tired. There wasn’t anyone who could drive as he did and work as he did without relief of some kind. It was just a matter of being completely worn out!
Mrs Calverley: Did he bring instruments with him?
Mrs Shearer: Oh, yes. He did emergency surgery, wherever he could. And there never was a nicer person! In the hospital he had a wonderful manner — gave you all kinds of confidence.
Mrs Calverley: You spent a great deal of time in the hospital, didn’t you [as a patient]? Mrs Shearer: Yes! And added to that I was on the Hospital Board for a good number of years.
Mrs Calverley: You had to come thirty miles to meetings?
Mrs Shearer: Yes, I was representing Rolla and all of the northern part of the district.
Mrs Calverley: Were you elected or appointed, or how did you get the position?
Mrs Shearer: I think we were called representatives, one from each district. I think we were chosen from our area, I was the one best known and besides, I was at the hospital a great deal.
Mrs Calverley: How long were you on the Hospital Board?
Mrs Shearer: I was there right to the end. I was called to a meeting at that time. The United Minister advised me not to go. I was about to enter the hospital myself so I was advised to stay away as it was going to be a bad meeting. I was not at the last meeting.
Mrs Calverley: Was that when the hospital closed?
Mrs Shearer: Well, there were accusations. I don’t know what they were and I don’t know whether they were ever proven. But there were accusations that Dr. Watson had not been running the hospital as it should be run.
Mrs Calverley: Did you ever have any complaints?
Mrs Shearer: When Dr. Watson was there he was a wonderful doctor. Once when he wasn’t there, a country midwife looked after me. And added to other services, not only he but also his whole family contributed to that hospital. One time when I was there, when Jack was born, there were fourteen women there in one room. We were very, very crowded.
Mrs Calverley: How many beds was it built for?
Mrs Shearer: That was just one room. There were fourteen babies — there were two pairs of twins. I know that at that time every bed the Watson household had was in the hospital. The Watson children were away but every bed was in the hospital — not only the Watsons’, but other people’s as well. I think eight was supposed to be the limit for that ward.
Mrs Calverley: Who did the washing? Who looked after so many people?
Mrs Shearer: The hospital staff does now. One woman was the cook, and a day woman came in to do the large washing. But added to the night nurse’s duties, besides the stoking of the stoves, they had to do the baby wash at night, and prepare something for lunches the next day.
Mrs Calverley: The baking?
Mrs Shearer: Yes, we were very well cared for, we had beautiful meals. As well we had nourishment in mid-morning, and in the afternoon. The night nurses provided that.
Mrs Calverley: I imagine that much payment for services was made in kind, was not? Mrs Shearer: Yes, I paid for my hospital care on the occasion with half a beef.
Mrs Calverley: You were there a long time?
Mrs Shearer: Yes … yes I was. Then there were many donations. I remember when Shearerdale went out in a body and picked raspberries — milk pails full! I don’t know how many. Then there were other things. If you had too many cauliflowers you took them in. If you had a piece of moose that looked very nice you took it in too. Besides, it was the social centre for those of us who had just come into the country. When your baby was born you went there. Then if you ever got a chance to go to town, you went to visit the nurses socially — it was a wonderful place. The community still keeps up the social tradition in their annual barbecue. It was always like that – a lovely place for friendship. Mind you, it was a terribly cold old building! But care was good and I should know because I was there a great deal of the time.
Mrs Calverley: Coming to and from the hospital must have been quite a grim experience.
Mrs Shearer: My first experience was at Doe River. We had rented the Franzine place. Down the road were the Pollard Brothers — bachelors. They had the only car in the country. I had Miss Peggy Brown, the Doe River teacher, living with me at the time. They were on call twenty-four hours a day if I even moaned. It wasn’t a very fancy car and the roads were terrible! Oh, it was rough! It was in November when I went in the first time. On November 25, I left Bobby with Mrs. Brown. The Pollards drove me in. In the hospital I was moaning and groaning about the terrible trip I had had. Miss Crook looked at me and said, “Well, we had a lady in from Groundbirch last week. [close to 40 miles away to the west]. He came in with two horses, leading one and riding one, with a little baby in front of him. She went home, riding a horse, with the new baby in front of her.” There was a very large family at home, eight or nine children. So she felt that I had fared fairly well. I never complained after that. There was no use of complaining to her. She always brought out the good in everybody. She was a wonderful person!
Mrs Calverley: Some funny things must have happened.
Mrs Shearer: Oh, yes! I could tell some very funny things you couldn’t put in a book or on tape!
I think nobody ever gave Dr. Watson credit for the many things he did for that institution. Politics got into it and that was the cause of the break down, and then there was a great hash.
Mrs Calverley: I heard, when we first came here that someone had come into the country and got elected, and then just went away.
Mrs Shearer: Yes, that was Planta. He came and made a great splurge, and got elected. Then he just went away, and we never heard from him again. Dr. Watson would have been a far better man.
Mrs Calverley: Thank you very much Mrs. Shearer. I think that stories like these should be preserved — stories of kindness, good humour and courage.
Mrs Shearer: Dr. Watson was a very courageous man.