Starched White Aprons- Pink and White Cheeks

Written By: Mary  Dabrowski

“Starched White Aprons – Pink and White Checks”


Mary Dabrowski  

Southampton Hospital – Suffolk School of Nursing 1959 – 1962.


I was there in those years studying to be a Registered Professional Nurse,

my dream since I was seven years old.  And, I was amongst fifteen other young

women in my class with that similar goal.


Suffolk School of Nursing was established in 1924, with just six students

in the first class.  It was located on the grounds of Southampton Hospital,

between Meeting House Lane and Herricks Lane.  The name of our residence

was Ellen Jacobsen Hall and the school was called the George H. Schenck

Memorial Building.  The hospital, the school, and the residence were all

connected by tunnels; mostly to facilitate accessibility during inclement



A three year diploma school, Suffolk School of Nursing was the only

nursing school in Suffolk County at that time.  It was also in the heart of one of

the most beautiful and oldest towns in the U.S.A., situated between the nearby

Atlantic Ocean and Peconic Bay.  There were tree lined streets with sidewalks,

green lawns, lush fields, pretty ponds, and a very wide Main Street with a

variety of exclusive stores and restaurants.  Much of how it looks today.


As my class started our first year, we were called probies during the first

six months.  We each had a “big sister”, an upper classman, who would

acquaint us with routines, and try to answer our questions.  My ‘big sister” was



Our uniforms consisted of a pink and white, tiny-checkered dress that

had a white, pleated bib and short sleeves, and a starched, white apron with a

buttoned waist.  We wore white stockings and white shoes.  A white nurse’s

cap, which we starched and folded ourselves, completed the look.  If local

citizens or “out-of-towners” were patients or visiting the hospital, they were

sure to see one or more of us scampering about the grounds, or taking care of

patients during our clinical experiences.  These uniforms were impressive, and

we were so proud to wear them.


In June of 1960, our class was given a capping ceremony where we

received a blue band for our white caps, recited the Florence Nightingale Pledge

and held our lanterns with lit candles.  This took place at the Parrish Memorial

Hall on Herricks Lane.


For the next three years, we studied many courses, listened to doctors’

lectures, and dedicated our summers to working in the hospital.


In our free time, we would bicycle to the ocean on Old Town Road, attend

Sunday service at one of the local churches, or window shop on Main Street.

Tanya’s clothing store was one of our favorite shops.  Most of us didn’t have a

car, so we usually walked to these places.  When the movie, “Psycho”, was

featured in 1960 at the movie theatre on Hill Street, about six of us sat in the

front row and screamed.  That shower scene was a shocker!  Then, during

Hurricane Donna in 1960, two of my classmates, Helen and Marge, and I rode

the hospital elevator up to the roof solarium, and watched as the wind and

waves toppled a large, waterfront house into the ocean.


During summers, we would be surprised to see celebrities visiting the

hospital.  I met the Rheingold girls, who were doing a publicity stunt in the

Hamptons for the beer product.  Ava Gabor came in one day to visit a patient.

Then, there were two sisters, Ann and Charlotte, who were often seen

there as volunteer candy stripers.


As students in our senior year, we were required to affiliate at city

hospitals for Psychiatric, Pediatric, and Obstetrical Nursing.  We spent three

months at each place.  At each hospital, we were always admired for our pink

and white uniforms; most nursing schools used blue and white, but ours were

different.  Although it was exciting to live in the city, we were always so glad to

return to Southampton each time a program ended.  Back to the open spaces,

fresh air and beautiful town of Southampton.


Finally, three years went by, and my classmates and I graduated on