Florence McClain, RN, Spring 1931

Considering the prominence given to the nursing pin in this portrait, and the fact that Mom is no longer wearing a student nurse uniform, I’m reasonably sure this was taken when she graduated from nurse’s training and became a registered nurse. That would have been in May or June 1931.

After three years of hard work, she was finally, officially a nurse. Unfortunately the timing was not ideal. According to Mom’s written recollection:

After graduation I worked in Portland for a while, but it was depression time and not much work, so I came home to Tallman. After a while I got a job at Albany General Hospital. We had a good group to work with there.

She also mentions:

At that time, I was paid sixty-seven dollars and board-and-room each month at Albany General.

I seem to recall Mom mentioning that the rooms the nurses got were in the basement of the hospital.

The photo below was taken in 1924, but I imagine Albany General Hospital looked the same in 1931 (except for models of the cars).

6 thoughts on “Florence McClain, RN, Spring 1931”

  1. Poor Mom! She looks tired. And probably after her 3 years of grueling training, she was! I wonder how $67plus room and board compared to other wages at the time.

    1. This is nowhere near a complete answer to your question. But I’ll give you the data points that I have.

      First, I fudged just a tiny bit. Mom gives the $67 per month figure for the year 1933, not 1931 when she started at Albany General. According to inflation figures published by the US Bureau of Labaor Statistics (monthly since 1914, shortly after the Department of Labor was formed), $67 in 1933 equates to $1,333 in 2020. (Using inflation statistics like this across a 90 year period is as likely to be misleading as it is to be helpful, but it still gives us some idea of the relative value of the dollars involved.) Would a job be attractive today if you offered someone $1333 per month plus room and board? (Or perhaps not “today,” but before the virus pandemic.) I’m not sure.

      One wage comparison data point is this: At that same time, Dad was being paid $0.25 per hour at Jenks-White Seed Company. For the purposes of converting this to a monthly pay figure, I’m going to assume Dad was working six days a week, ten hours per day. (Some of you may remember what his work schedule actually was at Jenks-White and be able to correct my assumption.) That equates to $15 per week or $65 per month—not including room and board.

      If that is representative of what common laborers were being paid at the time, then nurses had it comparatively good, at least on paper. The downside was having to be on call 24 hours per day (if not having to make regular rounds 24 hours per day) on days you were assigned to work.

      We mustn’t forget this was 1933, when people were blessed just to have a job.

  2. Thank you for this anecdotal information, Lloyd. She looks a bit “worn out” in this picture. Bet she was working hard, long hours. So interesting that she lived in the basement of the hospital….even with Grandma & Grandpa Hammel close….and Grandma McClain too? Before this time Mom’s teacher at the Tallman School came by train to teach, but doubt that it would have been possible in the reverse to be true for Mom since, I assume her hours would have been unpredictable! Bless her heart!!

    1. I don’t think she took room and board at the hospital because she had nowhere else to go. I think it was a requirement of the job. I’m reasonably sure she had days off where she could leave the hospital and go home to Tallman. But on days she was assigned to work, I think she was kind of on call 24 hours per day—and possibly even had to make rounds every few hours. I’m going from very indistinct memories of what Mom told me, so feel free (anyone) to correct if you remember something different.

  3. All the reminiscing is very enjoyable and I am glad for all the bits and pieces from each sibling. Thank you, Lloyd, for all the help with comparing our parents’ wages to today’s dollars and cents.
    Mamma does look very tired, unfortunately. Maybe a handsome man will come into her life and take her away from all that hard work? Ha!

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