I’m reading the Chicago Tribune about the Anne Frank Diary discovered in Holland after World War II. There are planned books, movies, and commemorations of her work forthcoming. I’m affected by the work of Anne Frank, her death, and her crusade for life. We all die and our efforts in this life will be lost without a record. Additionally, I’m deeply inspired by Anne Frank and others who have our life’s details exposed. I envision my grandchildren or someone 5000 years from now discovering my diary book in the basement remains of our house. I may be famous and never know of my notoriety. Daily, I witness many things in my life that are affected by our culture, customs and worldly events. World War II will never be forgotten by history. We are still strongly within the post war aftermath while unraveling from 50 million people dying. I feel so very fortunate to have escaped the torment of war on the battlefield. Though I’ve lost loved ones during the crisis of war, I’m not alone. I want my story told by me.I believe I have strong insight into myself and our present post WWII culture. I desire to have my inner thoughts exposed long after I die. Some of my thoughts I don’t want my family knowing, and if they find my diary, then I’ll be gone and won’t suffer emotionally.
The good and bad will all be diary reported as it affects my inner senses. My writing will remain hidden in my room underneath a floorboard that only God could discover. No other human knows of my diary. I want the story unaffected by what others may say or do to affect my writing. I want my diary as Anne Frank wanted her diary. The unedited story will be a strong story of my life from beginning to end. It will contain my glorious childhood, aspects positive and negative regarding adult life, and potentially long discussions of our senior years with perspectives beyond what I now can contemplate. I want a story told like no other. Few on our planet have heard about Green County, Wisconsin. I love it here, plan to stay indefinitely, and I want the story told the way I want readers to hear and understand. Enjoy reading about my wonderful life in rural Green County, Wisconsin.
Jean Suzanne Zuercher 1948
Chapter 1 – Returning Home from Marquette University
I awake to an early morning June 1948 arising sun in rural Green County, Wisconsin. It is humid (99%), hot (already 80 degrees at 0700), and I’ve listened to familiar crickets all night long. My sleep was fair with the loud insect noises in the background through the evening and early morning. My Mom, Edith Zuercher, is making oatmeal downstairs.This is the very best oatmeal because it is sweet, thick, healthy and tastes better than anything on our planet. Dad, Godfrey Zuercher, is placing the final touches on his 3 piece Black suit. Dad is the President of First National Bank in Monroe, Wisconsin. He is a big shot in this little Wisconsin town of 5000 or so people. I’m now a registered nurse (RN) at the local hospital (St. Claire) on the floor from 11PM until 7AM daily. I work overtime and may get paid one and a half hourly wages if a bill passes in the state legislature. I’ve passed my Wisconsin state boards; and I’m now a free woman running the show for myself. I love returning and now living at home.
Many of my old friends who didn’t attend college are waiting for me. It’s been a glorious reunion “catching up” with many old friends. And other college coeds and guys who are still single have returned home to Monroe, Wisconsin also. My friends and parents expected me to marry someone at college; however that didn’t happen. It was not even close. I had many dates; however, the real serious guys I met returned to the war in Europe or Asia. Some interesting guys I met traveled home for a few days from Europe after VE day; and then returned to the Pacific theatre of war. Some guys and even gals in the nursing corps never did return. Death was as common as the flu. Death may have been a virtue compared to the injuries I nursed back to health while a student. We had innumerable amputations, brain injuries, paralysis and the psychiatric “shock trauma” syndrome of war numbering in the thousands. Unfortunately, we’ve become insulated from our true feelings, and have accepted this phenomenon of war. Thankfully, VE and VJ day have occurred, I’ve finished college and I’m home. I gave serious thought to the military nursing corps; however Dad’s Europe bunker stories from World War I made myself selfish fearing lifelong injury or death.
My only serious college romance died during the invasion of the very last island (Iwo Jima) as the United States prepared for a potential Japanese invasion of one million Allied soldiers. I met him at a party and he was truly perfect. A whirlwind three week romance and he was off to war and never to return. I knew we would marry if he returned to Wisconsin; but that was not in the cards. I actually met his family and sent them a well planned letter of condolence. They also knew we would marry. We discussed becoming engaged prior to his returning to war; however I didn’t want to rattle my parents my senior year of college. Becoming engaged to be married without meeting my parents is a real no-no in our house. I saw what my older sister Mary incurred with her engagement to Rolly Coates. Mom and Dad really did perform an FBI background check prior to any finished marriage agreement in our family.
The engagement to a GI guy I met was not that critical; because a formal announcement was highly secondary to the feelings we experienced for one another. If he returned from the South Pacific, it would be a blessing. Many GIs never were found similar to my true war boyfriend/near fiance. I cry some at night thinking of what we could have been. I cannot feel sorry for myself because this is the state of worldly affairs we apparently must endure as a society. War is senseless; but unavoidable. It’s obvious better times are now finally coming; though places like Korea concern myself immensely. World War III could be on the horizon according to many knowledgeable people. I know medically we couldn’t withstand another war after fighting two world wars recently. My Dad was in France during World War I. Dad, late at night, discussed how brutal that war theater became with years of torture inflicted on both sides of the conflict. Isn’t there another way to solve differences other than total attempted destruction?
Finally, the United States is plunging into the United Nations with funding, a home in new York City and commitment to world peace. As a country we unfortunately declined to enter the League of Nations and never did sign the Treaty of Versaille ending World War I. World War II was essentially a poorly negotiated settlement of World War I. Finally, the United States will henceforth promote all worldwide peace initiatives. My three week fling and ultimate loss occurred because of the war. We would have never met unless there was a World War II. I cannot move ahead on certain days with flashbacks of his death. I don’t know what to say to his parents and family because he is just gone. I think they want to treat me like a daughter, but I really wasn’t a daughter yet. They live in Ripon, Wisconsin. Mark Giles was my near fiance’; and the Giles family somehow barely gets by each and every day. I will someday return to Ripon and empty my tear ducts. It’s hard to know what to do, what to say or how to move on. I must however live on because many rural Wisconsin families have endured what I incurred with a de facto fiance’ loss.
My love story is not unlike many other young women who have become emboldened by World War II. Happy days are here again, there is a blossoming of everything in our society and I’ve seen the bad times eek into the beginning of a post war boom in so many ways. I love it presently. My nursing hours are terrible, but I’m thankful the ravaging war is finally over. I can’t say or think this enough. Truman ended the war in the only catastrophic manner he could with an atomic bomb. He’s now our president and we are at odds with Russia, our former war ally. I just wish it would all end; but what they now call the Cold War will be with us for years. I pull my robe over my pajamas and I’m descending the stairs mid morning to visit with Mom. My parents were numb to all aspects of war. My Dad had experienced enough horror in a trench for 2 years in Europe as a late teenager. Mom doesn’t discuss my romance with Mark Giles much. I think she understands my true feelings; but what am I to say to my mother as she grew up without her real parents. Mom’s transfers between foster homes repeatedly until Dad saved her was something I’ll never experience or completely understand. Mom and I are good for one another in many ways. Thankfully, I have a Mother – Daughter relationship. At times there is intense sibling rivalry between older sister Mary and myself. Mary, however, will be gone soon to Illinois; and then it’s Mom and I in our home sanctuary. Sibling James is becoming a Jesuit Brother; and he’ll experience a life of mission for Jesus. Jim had one semester to complete before obtaining his Marquette degree. He had the gravitational pull of Jesus with nothing stopping his climb into heaven eventually. James is nothing less than perfect in all ways. I’ll miss him when he is not around; and we’ll enjoy one another immensely when he returns.
My mother asks me if I met any nice young men at the party last evening. I responded between oatmeal swallows that I had reconnected to many old high school classmates and friends who never went to college. They were all working the surrounding farms and cheese factories, and a few worked in the Huber Brewery in downtown Monroe, Wisconsin. Mom was reminding me if I had reviewed any prospects. A young girl is not supposed to stay single for long. That is just how it is. I’m thinking while eating my oatmeal that I don’t have control over much of dating as I’m not the one initiating the relationship. My mind travels back to many nights of sneaking out after hours from the nursing dorm when our resident nun fell asleep. The nursing floor sneaking out was on the offense. We were placed on probation twice after the campus police escorted us back to the dormitory. The scorn of our resident nun made me never think about leaving beyond curfew (10 PM). We even snuck guys and an occasional beer into the room. These acts were beyond reproach according to Marquette University. My parents sent me a lengthy letter regarding my poor behavior after the University sent them a condemning and cautioning letter.
My older sister, Mary, did the exact same “sneaking out at night” from Marquette University; however, was never caught once. She had fallen in love with a guy named Rolly Coates with one of those late night escapes. Roland was an engineer in training in Milwaukee. Rolly and Mary are marrying at St. Victor Catholic Church later this summer. I’m the maid of honor. It is a monster sized wedding and I could not be happier. They are truly in love. They will move to a Chicago, suburb, Aurora, Illinois.They plan on having children soon. I’m certain I’ll receive pressure to marry, find someone or succumb to one of the local guys at this wedding. Maybe, that is good for me. I’m certainly not losing my mind over not having a steady boyfriend and future husband. It would be nice and will just naturally happen. On the other hand, my pesky parents will see to it that I marry. It seems that the societal thing to do is to marry quickly and produce. Despite the familial pressure, it’s still good to be home.
I will return to work tonight and face many common medical illnesses including polio, influenza, emphysema from tobacco, and considerable cardiac illness. There will be some postoperative patients who will need morphine and demerol more than they should, but I’ll be ready. Every infection now is treated with Penicillin; and it works its magic on most days. We have mostly pills, but IV penicillin is coming. We provide many injections of penicillin. Most patients are quite tolerant of this miraculous antibiotic drug. Our steel needle IV catheters are difficult to maintain in many patients; however, certainly do assist with fluid management. We are transitioning to plastic intravenous catheters instead of metal needles in the vein catheters. Everyone is obtaining normal saline (sodium chloride) infused IV (intravenous) – including our diabetic patients who need insulin more than anyone realizes. I love nursing, and through my family of mission, I am the perfect fit for the job. I’ll keep on plugging along and helping as many people as I can. The doctors, though rural physicians, can be outright scary at times if they don’t obtain what they need and want stat (right away). The surgeons can be outright grumpy if they’ve haven’t had sleep. Call is endless; and though it is against rules, some of our docs do have alcohol on their breath at night when they are called to the hospital or our primitive, rural emergency room. I just put all of these matters in my back pocket as I succumb to the pressures and glorious benefits of nursing practice. I’m paid well and am fortunate to not have debt from college. Mom and Dad funded the college nursing school at Marquette University. I thought about attending Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska where my uncle was president; but close-by Marquette’s nursing school was far too good to turn down. I was so attached to home in Monroe, Wisconsin that I left scratch marks on the driveway with my fingernails when I left homne at age 17.
I know moving back home is a blessing with Mom’s food and commiserating with my family. However, I probably in time need to find my own rental, house or some other arrangement. I’ve met a couple new girls my age who have moved into the Monroe area and could share an apartment or house rental. There is such a building boom occurring throughout the Green County region. Many of the businesses are recording record profits and unemployment is non-existent. There is seemingly a post war boom in so many economic areas including businesses, road construction, entertainment, housing and making babies. I’ve had the pre-marital sex talk by both Mom and Dad on many occasions. We don’t want to blemish our family’s reputation with an out of wedlock birth. My best friend in high school, (Dorothy – Dora for short), just delivered her first baby. Unfortunately the baby’s father wanted nothing to do with the baby or even the thought of a marriage. There are hard feelings everywhere; however her baby is really cute. I told Dora I’d babysit since I’ve been taught in nursing school how to change diapers, bathe and bottle feed her baby. Few women breast feed; and there are many arguments against the practice since the formulas are so very good and have enriched vitamins and iron. All the theories of poor nutrition with breastfeeding and the effects on a woman’s breast from mastitis to loss of firmness were emphasized in nursing school. Marquette frowned on the practice of Mom breastfeeding; but didn’t outright condemn the breastfeeding. I feel it was the fact that a woman had to expose her breast in public that deterred society from accepting breast feeding. However, breastfeeding babies is considerably more inexpensive than bottle feeding according to Dora. Her parents have essentially disowned her for the out-of-wedlock baby. In time, however, they should come around and be proper grandparents. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin out-of-wedlock births were common; but not in rural Green County. Your family succumbs to a life of probation, loss of social esteem and back pews at the local church..
Our phone rings and I answer with a call from the hospital to do a double shift. The head nurse wants me to begin in OB. Fortunately I delivered many babies myself during nursing school while at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Monroe has babies coming through the walls; and the hospital talk is that many of the obstetricians are busy in surgery or the office and cannot physically be present at every delivery. The obstetricians rely on the obstetric nurses immensely. This should be no problem for me after delivering many babies not in delivery room stirrups. Many of our wartime deliveries were in the halls of the Milwaukee, Wi. OB wards. I’m certain I’ll quickly re-engage my obstetric nursing skills. Suddenly, while dressing for my upcoming double nursing shift, Dora calls and asks for help. She is bleeding heavily vaginally. She has a new baby who is crying in the background. I need to think because half this town is upset that Dora has a baby and is not married. My parents are somewhere in the middle. I can’t change all this. An idea hits me in the head and I’ll give it a try. We only have one family car, and that is at the bank. I usually walk to work. Thus, I calmly call Dad and see if he can allow me to drive his Oldsmobile tonight. He agrees and I walk to the bank, retrieve the car, and drive to Dora’s apartment. The baby is crying incessantly and needs immediate food. I pick up the baby, change the diapers, and begin feeding the baby. I’m doing well. I enter the bathroom and Dora is not conscious while laying on the floor. I throw cold water on her face and she minimally responds. Her pulse is thready and she is a pale blue color. I then notice there is blood everywhere and she is still bleeding vaginally immensely. I call my head nurse (Shelly) who clinically and emotionally handles everything well. It was tough to get through the hospital operator; but I finally connected. Shelly says she’ll be over in a minute as the ambulance is at a farm fire presently. I should take care of Dora’s baby, and Shelly will get the on call obstetrician to do an emergency D and C (dilatation and curettage of the uterus) to stop the bleeding. Hopefully, Dora will not need an emergency hysterectomy.
Shelly arrives and we place Dora in her backseat and she’s off to the hospital for needed treatment. I’m late for my shift and must rely on Mom. The entire town would say we knew this would happen because of the out-of-wedlock marriage, and maybe feel not so sorry for Dora. I’m taught in nursing school that no matter what the situation portends, always take care of the patient. Societal status, money, age, sex nor other political factors don’t affect our nursing practice. We do what is correct clinically 100% of the time no matter what extraneous factors occur. Dora will die without our help. And I have a nursing shift to begin. I’m only an hour late thus far. Now would not be the optimal time to have Dora or the Dad’s parents enter the grandson’s life. I call Mom and shakingly tell her what has happened. I expect the phone to be silent; however when it comes to babies, Mom perks up and says we will help. I rush the baby to our house and Mom and Dad are there waiting for me with blood all over my white nursing cap and gown. Thankfully, I purchased 3 nursing suits and caps. One is in the wash and the other is folded in my dresser. My parents take the baby and head to our old nursery area. Dad purchased some diapers and formula. We are all good; and I suspect that our family are now the default grandparents of Dora’s baby. I shower and I’m off to work in Dad’s car. They will walk to work and the store if needed until my double shift is completed.
I arrive at work and the ambulance has just entered with many burned patients on their way to surgery and then ICU. ICU (Intensive Care Unit) was just the Recovery Room; however it has its special medical appeal modernly with more intense nursing and physician care. I’ve been reassigned by Shelly our head nurse to prepare all the patients for surgery with a bath and IV. Our general surgeons will be covering the burns with pigskin and debriding the extensive areas of charred skin. Everyone will receive an IM injection of penicillin by yours truly. I did peek over at the recovery room area and noticed Dora with a smile on her face. I didn’t interfere, but she looks wholesome again. I feel very good about myself; and our Marquette nursing codes within the Catholic faith always will guide us to the correct decisions. Growing up in the depression with rigid Victorian attitudes have now lessened a trifle with my parents and family. Our family is stuffed full of Jesuits that the Zuercher name (from Switzerland) will seemingly just die. My recently ordained cousin, Jack Zuercher SJ from Chicago, said mass at our cottage on Decatur Lake in Green County in early May. The only relative who didn’t agree was my uncle Joseph Zuercher SJ. He left and went to my aunts’ house in nearby Brodhead, Wisconsin. This purportedly in the modern era is the first sanctioned Wisconsin province mass outside the church walls. Therefore, our family is loosening considerably with such rigid social and religious structures surrounding us.
My mind wanders back to my 3 week boyfriend last year who never returned from the South Pacific. His remains are on an island near Japan termed Iwo Jima.Many horror stories are being told about Iwo Jima. My guy, Mark Giles, was a brave soul in the middle of this messy fight. I become tearful and Shelly comes by at this very second. She asks what is wrong and I relate that burns led to my boyfriend dying in Asia. She gets it and we hug. We then review the patients and sort them by triage. One younger man needs a ventilator and will be intubated (tube in windpipe) shortly.Three other patients will need extensive debridements and pigskin covering. The rest of the wounded are sent to the floor with IV saline and IM penicillin. We’ve just ordered more penicillin from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. This was quite the barn fire with firetrucks from all the surrounding towns being involved including Browntown, Albany, Brodhead, Brooklyn, Belleville, New Glarus and Monticello .Apparently they were no deaths and the rest of the attached buildings were saved. The burned workers were caught in an explosion of gas surrounding the building and still attempted to retrieve the cattle within the barn. The farmer lost considerable crops, stored hay, and a silo of corn. The house was apparently saved. We also have inhalation injuries from the volunteer firemen now being treated on the floor. There is no room in the emergency room for these patients. Sadly, the firemen cannot stop interested viewers when the fire whistle rings. People travel to the fire stations and even follow the fire trucks out of curiosity feeling they will definitely miss something big. In fact, the entire town of Brodhead, Wisconsin to the east 13 miles, has the entire town following fire trucks routinely. A fire in their area merits a caravan of cars to the scene. This is dangerous; but it appears many people have little to do and don’t want to miss a blazing barn fire akin to a movie scene. I may end up doing a triple shift according to head nurse, Shelly.
I’m finishing my first shift and have wandered over to Dora’s room and notice she is asleep. I recheck her pelvic area and she doesn’t awaken. I’m shocked as I note at least 4 units of blood lying underneath her sheets; and she is actively bleeding again. I call Shelly, my chief nurse, and Dora returns to surgery with hypotension (low blood pressure). The obstetrician – gynecologist stresses to give O negative blood and boil water to shock the uterus. Otherwise, Dora may not be able to keep her womb. The nurse anesthetist is weary about putting her to sleep in this condition also. Anyway, she’s on her way to surgery again in a comatose state. I realize now that Dora may not live. My parents may end up being permanent babysitters with Dora’s illegitimate or bastardized baby. Hopefully, the war and the renaissance within society will change the views of small town folks regarding babies born without a ceremonial marriage.These terms will someday die with the decline of the Victorian era. I know many parents would view any aspect of pregnancy (even one split second) prior to a marriage as a sinful crime. Our Baltimore catechism defines venial sins as lesser ones and truly evil acts (mortal sins). The pictures on the Baltimore catechism are scary with the devil and black marks on your chest that are difficult to wash away. Our only retribution is the sacrament of penance within a confessional. This erases sin, but must be exposed to the parish priest behind a curtain. Thereafter we are given prayers and duties to amend our bad acts. I pray heavily for Dora; knowing that she may not live through this uterine bleeding. Apparently it is a retained placenta from the recent delivery and now a coagulopathy (blood not forming a clot) which only whole blood can cure. Dora has exhausted all of her blood coagulation products and now must rely on IV supplements.
I tend to my last burn patient heading to surgery and note that it is a guy I knew in high school. We nearly went to prom my junior year; except our parents blocked the date. Few used birth control back then, and modernly most men have condoms. Condoms are not 100% foolproof, however. All parents feared pregnancy due to a rash of high school pregnancies that occurred during my graduation year from St. Victor’s Catholic school. The parents were concerned about “mixed marriages” at the very heart of the Green County epidemic of teen pregnancy. A mixed marriage was two differing religions marrying. Thus, I couldn’t withstand my parents concern regarding the two of us dating or attending prom together. This relationship ended as quick as it started. Tom Gifford, the Lutheran guy, now has a productive farm and cheese factory, is still single, and I witnessed his fiance’ coming to save his life. Actually, it was I who saved his life. There is a ton going on around me now! Maybe, I should have taken that job offer in Racine, Wisconsin?
I’m nearing my second shift and have visited Dora in the ICU. She underwent a hysterectomy and now has lost her fertility. I’m very upset regarding all this medical upheaval during my first week at St. Claire Hospital in Monroe, Wisconsin. Many of these adverse events are to people I knew since kindergarten. Shelly says give the hospital another 4 hours and she’ll drive me home. I agree and embark on my regular job on the floor. Saint Claire Hospital in Monroe, Wi. is extremely busy presently with people of all sorts. There are even newsmen present from Madison, Rockford and MIlwaukee wanting to obtain stories. They envision myself as a tired nurse wanting to talk. I’m besieged with reporters abounding as they obviously knew I was in the surgical area. I succumb to some of their questions but cannot openly talk about patients unless they have given permission. Thus, I state many no comment statements to the press. I return and attend to my regular caseload and notice that because of the craziness of the hospital emergencies, many patients haven’t been fed, bathed and not received their medications. I quickly catch up on all the patients, chart and Shelly arrives to drive me home. It’s morning of the next day already, and I cannot see anything but my bed. My parents are thrilled to have me return and Dora’s baby is lying in our old crib smiling. Dora’s son has no idea that Mom nearly died. I inform my parents and said we’d work out all the details in the next couple of days. Maybe no one should get pregnant before a wedding because guys just leave, it is a life altering condition the female endures and the couple on both sides needs to make a commitment prior to marrying and having babies. I’m plunging into bed with my nursing garb on. The blood didn’t completely wash out of the other nursing uniform; so I’m down to two nursing outfits. What a day! Sleep feels great.
I awaken to Grandma’s oatmeal smell and begin to dress. I’m on the medical-surgical floor shift within an hour. I almost could cry I’m so upset over Dora. I’m already worrying about her family, fertility loss, and the ramifications of the near death. Some residents in Green County probably believing she deserved to die or not have more out-of-wedlock children. How shameful these thoughts can become. I felt World War II would change the attitudes of the depression era; but it hasn’t in small town America. Maybe Dora needs to move. Another friend of mine in high school became pregnant and moved to Atlanta, Georgia. It was just something you did because of the shameful pregnancy before marriage and the issues surrounding pregnancy relating to your family. It seems that time and a relief from war would change that opinion; but apparently we need more time. Dora may move, and I’ll lose her forever. We need to talk. I’m not even certain her family knows of her recent illness. Anyway, I’ll inform them so they can at least do a thoughtful hospital visit to Dora. Our patient, Dora, will be watched for at least a week. I’ve got a mission to help and assist Dora in all ways. I desperately want our childhood to return, and we not face the consequences of early adult life. Unfortunately, we’re now adults with real adult experiences. I lost my probable fiance’ to Japanese ammunition and Dora has lost her fertility due in part to the single Mom classification. We’re good for each other.
I walked to the hospital and forgot my rain gear as it began pouring from the clouds and I’m soaked walking onto the nursing floor. A doctor is present so we are required to stand. This is an old custom that just began changing in the Milwaukee hospitals when I left. This will require a generation due to many docs enjoying their superior position in the peck order of medicine. I’m not fancying either way regarding the physician’s responsibility of order. It does seem a touch ridiculous since most women are nurses and most guys are docs in the hospitals, we’re on the same team and we all have important functions in assisting the overall health of the patient. Women still have a long way to go in that the right to vote occurred nationally in 1920. We are now just beginning to see women doctors; and that will hopefully change the requirement of standing when a doctor is at the nurses station. In fact, it should be the doctors standing for the nurses when the nurses take care of the patients 24 hours daily with changing clothes, catheters, IVs, bedpans and bed sheets. Nurses provide baths, shave patients and ensure that the correct family member is present when needed. Our life of mission is second to none. I want someone standing for me when I do my patient duties. I shouldn’t politicize and should just be glad VE and VJ days occurred.
I’ve already been hearing some insinuations around the community regarding Dora’s plight. My parents are even being scorned to a degree for helping someone with a bastard child. Again, what an ugly term, but still commonly used. The father has not been seen, but needs to be present. Dora’s parents have disowned her after the early pregnancy and have not helped. The Zuercher family will help no matter if we lower our social standing. I don’t believe Monroe will nix the First National Bank President from the bridge club, country club establishment (GE Zuercher (Dad) is an original Monroe Country Club founder) and school board. We are heavy contributors to St. Victor’s church and school, raise considerable money with fund raisers and talk to all new parishioners. My parents have taught the religious classes occasionally. The message is to walk a straight line, never veer and maintain your poise at all times. Our guide is the Baltimore catechism. My single aunts in Brodhead, Wisconsin teach and sing at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Brodhead, Wi.. My aunts are considerably more spiritual than my parents. I’m surrounded with Jesuits, religious instructors and a Victorian small town America society. I’m supposed to find a guy (or he finds me), and then immediately settle down and produce. That is the post World War II way of living. It is fairly rigid in Green County. I’m not certain it wouldn’t be different any other place excepting the east or west coasts.
I’m now caring for 10 burn patients who all have similar patient wants and needs. The narcotic medications of morphine and demerol are no longer working. Aspirin helps a small amount as does acetaminophen, a new pain killer. The barbiturate (Seconal) sleeper is a godsend. No one sleeps without this drug on board. Though Seconal is addicting, it certainly works. Many patients want the drug upon dismissal, but rarely do physicians write a script for this powerful drug working against evening wakefulness. Even a fan in the room bothers the burn graft sites. My patient, Tom Gifford, is talking silly again that he doesn’t want to marry his fiance’. I want no part of this relationship due to his present commitment. I don’t want to endure my parents thoughts about myself marrying a non-Catholic. Additionally, Tom will be a handful long term medically (selfish me). The care of burn patients is endless. His future wife seems up to the task; and as a nurse I’m not stealing eligible men from engagements they need to keep. I dissuade Tom from the foolish come – ons when I’m nursing with statements that I’m taken. Tom needs to concentrate on recovering from his burns medically and returning to his farm work. I may be somewhat of a hot commodity showing up in Monroe, Wisconsin. Remember, I just launched from nursing school, am single/unattached and eligible according to my parents. I don’t see it quite that way. I will allow life to walk it’s pace meant for me. I love coming back home. And I will endure the obstacles of small town life and culture, my prodding parents, and the ever unspoken post World War II requirement of marriage and immediate production. Marriage and fertility is something of a duty for every young adulthood girl post World War II. It will all happen for me, and I’ll just be blindsided.
Sunday arrives and I have a day off from the hospital. As a family we are attending 1030 mass, the social after the church and then heading to our cabin on Decatur Lake in Brodhead, Wisconsin. There is a back way to Decatur Lake using Wisconsin Highway 59 and the back county roads. Mom has packed a massive kitchen picnic basket of food and Dad has planned his work for the day on our land abutting Decatur Lake. It is hot; but we’ll have fun. The families are all solid people around the lake, and there is plenty to do from water skiing, fishing, hiking, relaxing reading a book, or just visiting with friends and relatives. On many occasions the Zuercher family from Chicago drives north for an afternoon visit. Essentially my grandfather and his family came across the ocean from Switzerland through Ellis Island and established two Zuercher sects. There is the Chicago Zuercher family and the Green County sect (which I’m the offspring). Both families have cheese factories and we have a farm. Our family has my Dad’s brother running the cheese factory which he worked as a child with 13 apprentices. The apprentices worked 6.5 days/week, received no pay, and were as happy as anyone you’ll ever meet.Our family cared for the apprentices’ family all through college for their offspring. As business owners and patrons the Zuercher’s cared for housing, food, vacations, cars, clothes and ensured all apprentice children had college or trade school opportunities. It is an old European system which seemingly worked well. There are many rural businesses that have “old school” worker payment systems which benefit both parties. There is superior loyalty of the workers and all family needs are resolved by the business owner.
My grandparents have a small boat which we decide to ride and take a swim. There is a sandbar not far from our cabin with knee deep water. It is fun to have us all in the water together. I have a need to swim because of our swim team at Monroe while in high school and the summers lifeguarding at the Monroe Recreation Park pool. The water in Decatur Lake is invigorating, a little muddy, but very clean. There is always the continuing problem of erosion from the Wisconsin farm banks along the Sugar River as it enters Decatur Lake. I always envisioned this pure lake being able to see my feet at the bottom; but this will never occur. The water is just the right temperature and I can swim nearly across the lake and back (one mile). Swimming is my favorite sport; and I’m always swimming adult swim at the Monroe pool when it’s open. Mom has a bell which the entire lake can hear when it is our supper time. I’m on my way with my sister Mary and a friend back to our cabin after an afternoon one hour swim on our empty stomachs (Mom’s requirement).
A storm is fast approaching so we pull up the anchor and motor back to the cabin. I can smell hot apple cider, barbecue chicken, and a cherry dessert as I’m walking up to the cabin. I cannot fathom a healthier place to be. Mom is the most on her game when she is in the kitchen. Dora’s baby is still with us; and Mother never left her bedside. Though I don’t know all the details, my Mom was apparently an orphan from Oklahoma. Many children at the turn of the century were abandoned on the east coast of the United States and traveled west through orphanages scattered throughout the United States. I’m not concerned about Dora’s baby with my mother surrounding the little guy. I’m more worried about Dora. We told her to take a few days and we’d return the little munchkin. I feel my parents have now gained more respect in the community for Dora’s baby care. It appears the tide has swung and many women are asking how she is doing, hoping she is well, and wanting to know details about her little boy. Yet, no parents of Dora are in sight. Quite honestly, I’d be a touch scared if I knew the parents wanted the baby. One always hears about horror stories of baby torturing; and it appears Dora’s parents have disowned her and the baby. Who knows how they would react if the little guy cried a bunch. He never cries with us; and always has a smile on his face. This little guy has me interested in babies.
Mom and Dad want me to meet this young serviceman returning from a place called Guam in the South Pacific. He is a little younger than me, attending college, is a fellow parishioner, and neatly completes all his cheese factory duties timely. He’s apparently heard about me and my availability, and wants to come for a family invite next weekend. He’s already been approved by my parents and sister. Obviously, they are all setting me up. Everyone thinks I’m a little bit of a loser without a steady guy or marriage proposal. I’m not because I just returned home and am just getting over a man I love immensely who died in the war. My job is overwhelming with all the work the hospital provides. The obstetricians want me as chief OB nurse because they witnessed me delivering a breech baby in the hallway. This was routine nursing school practice and no big deal to me. Thus, I’m being transferred from the med-surg floor to obstetrics. Obstetrics can be usually routine with labor and screaming Moms. However, at times we have depths of danger for Moms and babies. We always clinically try to avoid performing Caesarean Sections (surgical deliveries); however in times of stress with a Mom’s loss of pushing power, we must do what is right and save both the Mom and baby through surgery. I will do what the hospital and doctors want and need. There are no bars to my service; because that is how I was strictly trained. I also think the OB docs want a reliable nurse around when they are at a cocktail party on a Saturday evening (not that they don’t deserve the relaxation). I guess they feel I know trouble when I see or feel it. My life suddenly changed into a more active nurse who is always on the lookout for labor bleeps. They’ve promised more remuneration also.
My first week of OB with some day shifts went well. I only delivered by myself three babies. We are having record numbers of babies being born in the county. I’ve even had married guys flirting with me. I know better. The service guy stationed in Guam rekindled his old high school relationship and I’m out of the picture. This was to the dismay of my parents. I’ll just keep plugging along and enjoying my Mom and Dad for their well meaning attempts to be a full service family. The weather couldn’t be any better with cool nights and warm Wisconsin days. The trees are ever changing. My favorite is the sugar maple. These awesome trees mature daily with a sheer unmistakable glow of fiery red colors on the leaves. In the fall the tree leaves turn a mystical yellow, golden, red and orange combination. The bonus for kids is the ability of the Spring pod containing seeds to be placed between the palate and tongue and deliver loud shrieking sounds. This allows considerable energy to flow as a child. I remember days of shrieking sounds during the day with locusts humming at night. I want those days back; but realize they are irretrievable. I need to move on.
My thoughts between deliveries are all over the map. I still think about my guy that died on Iwo Jima island, Dora, my parents, my younger brother at Marquette (James) and my older sister Mary. I feel I’m in the right place and things will work out. It is safe in Green County. I have plenty of work and many friends. I’ve endlessly danced with many eligible guys at Monroe’s Swiss Turner Hall on weekends; but haven’t been truly crazy about any of them. I’m very picky; and should be. All my friends seemingly have a guy and I don’t. I’m considering re-attending school for my Masters in nursing (few have the degree and it’s not easy). That would involve night school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I just don’t know if that is the correct choice. It’s hard to pick up a textbook after obtaining my BS in nursing from a prestigious university. I need to return Dora’s baby tonight because Mom says it is just time. I drive to Dora’s house and knock to no answer. The door is open so I enter and see nothing. I turn on the lights and enter the bedroom of her apartment and she is sleeping with a large alcohol smell abounding. An empty bottle of hard liquor lies nearby.
The baby begins to cry and Dora awakens in an alcoholic slumber. She is obviously intoxicated and cannot function. I leave a note for Dora to call in the morning. I place the baby boy back in the car seat and return home to Mom and Dad. I explain truthfully the situation to my parents. The Zuercher family has in essence adopted a baby boy. Mom certainly gets it while Dad is slowly coming around. Mom feeds the little guy, he smiles and they walk upstairs to the crib. Dad says we’re doing the exact right thing. I love my Dad; and my Mom also. I’m glad I came home to Green County, Wisconsin after graduating from Marquette University. It’s not perfect; but it’s very close.