Back to Stories

The Dishpan

Phyllis:

In my time the Dishpan was under the command of Miss Matthews, a large woman unaffectionately known as Battleaxe. I rarely went to the Dish except for the time I had a leg infection--just before leaving for Kodai I had scratched my leg on a trunk and on the train the scratch got infected. For five months I had to keep going to the Dish for treatment --the scratch had become a strange pink swelling that M.( alias B.) didn't know what to do with. In frustration she kept putting on more disinfectant and a new bandage. You can see the bandage in some photos. It kept slipping down my leg, what a nuisance. When Mother came up in May she took a horrified look at the thing and put an antibiotic on it, and it went away leaving a shiny scar on my right leg.


Bandaged Phyl with Grace, Paul and Betty at Kodai

I must have gone there also when a baseball knocked my left little finger crooked. She didn't know what to do with that either and it's still crooked. One time when I was there she squeezed an unfortunate boy's boil so hard the center popped out across the room. The only other remembrance is of M. (alias B.) patrolling the dining room and making us eat our spinach/squash/etc. One day at lunch our table decided to annoy her by suddenly all bursting out into loud laughter. The result was that Muggit, Anne, and I got to sit with the little kids for the next few weeks--there were three long tables, and we were placed at the ends as far apart as possible. Poor Miss Matthews. I hope she had some happy days.


Gwen:

My most vivid memories about the dishpan (health care center/hospital) are the many days and nights Joanne and I spent there with tonsillitis. Without antibiotics, we had to just suffer it out, usually about 10 days with fever and very sore throat. They smeared our throats outside with ichtheol - some sort of black stuff made from fish that smelled so bad that I can conjure up that odor today! Inside our throats they painted iodine. During the day there was some activity but the nights were very spooky. An Indian nurse slept in a front bedroom, I think, but that was little comfort, especially if I had no roommate.

One time I wasn't feeling well and anyway I wanted to get out of class (probably Latin with that awful Mr. Mussel) and so I talked Nelllie into pretending to be ill so I could have company should they put me to bed. The doctor examined us and declared Nellie to be very sick and sent me back to class! So much for doctors.

Another time, as a freshman, my boyfriend (Bill Cummings, of course - the two-timing so-and-so) was sick so I went to the dishpan to see him. Of course they wouldn't allow that so I simply went outside his bedroom and we chatted through the window. He had a bad cold and kept spitting green stuff into a bowl. That should have told me something right there, but no, I had to wait and get hit on the head by finding out that he was seeing Nellie on the side! Given what he and I were doing, I have always wondered what in the world they were doing.

One time the dishpan was closed and Mugwad and I had to see the doctor so they sent us to her house on Koker's Walk. As we sat in the living room/waiting room, we saw a jar full of cigarettes so we stole some, having never tried smoking due to it being such a huge sin. When we got back to Bruton, we went in the woods to smoke. Mugwad lit her cigarette and blew out the smoke, looking ever so professional about it. I knew that God would strike me dead on the spot if I took even one puff - and of course then I'd not see Bill again - so I persuaded Mugwad to inhale and blow the smoke into my mouth. That way I could have some clue about the mysteries of smoking and not go straight to hell. Had I known all the things I would do in the next 50 years of my life, I certainly would have smoked that cigarette and even inhaled!

The last place we saw before we went home each year - that day for which we waited for months - was the dishpan. That was where the bus stopped to pick us up and take us down the ghat and to our train. Probably was the first thing we saw when we returned too.


Loey:

The dish as we knew it is now 3 apartments - quite small ones - and there is a huge stone wall separating it from the road as the traffic there is loud and constant. The new dish - still called that - is where the Swedish School was and is quite a bit more modern with big windows and bright quilts on all the beds. It just got renovated this past year as it had gotten fairly dingy - it still lacks the 'homey' feeling but it's not bad. However, no dish can be the same without Annie Putz and her nurse who always prescribed ememas - even for splinters! The old dish, now apartments, are appropriately called the Annie Putz house. I believe that she just recently died in Chennai so I'm sure she and Mom are off hiking together once again.


Margy:

I don't recall ever visiting the "dishpan." Only remember vaguely hearing about it, that it was down the hill somewhere, that "icthyol" was used generously for all ailments. That's about it. Guess I wasn't sick either.


Betty:

I had a few visits to the dish. Once we had decided to have a spitting contest and to chew beetlenut with that red stuff so our spit would be easily measured. Well, that stuff has hallucinogenic effects and we were high as a kite and sick as a dog. We had to take several medicines to clear our systems.

Once I was playing catcher on our softball team and got a direct hit from the batter into my rib cage. I had cracked a rib, they said. Later x-rays showed it had been broken and pushed up on the rib above. In any case, I hurt for days. No pain killers for us in those days.

The whole school had to take cod liver oil malt after lunch because several of us had major curvatures of our spinal cord due to rickets because of a lack of vitamins C and D to help calcify our bones. We also had to wear a harness to keep our backs straight. Sounds like scoliosis, except so many had it.

I was in for several colds that got pretty bad. Yes, the doctor put on icthiol--that felt hot, smelled a bit like vix or eucalyptus, and spread on like a thick black tar. It was tough to wash off.

We always saw the dish as the place of last resort - tried to avoid it at all costs. That's all I recall at this time. Oh, the doctor was Dr. Rosenthal, an elderly Jewish lady.


Jo:

I remember the Dishpan very well, mainly because I was constantly having sore throats. I'd go down to the Dish and Annie Putz would swab the way back of my throat with some burny, icky stuff that was like iodine and then she'd smear ichthyol on my neck and wrap it up with some cloth. I'd go to school smelling terrible.

If it was a bad case of tonsillitis, I'd have to stay at the Dish for the Big Treatment. That involved sitting on a chair underneath a big sheet while a teakettle-type-thing bubbled away on a hot plate and smothered me with Vicks vapors. I was supposed to breathe deeply to get these vapors way down into my lungs. After about half an hour of this, I was completely wiped out. Not sure if it helped the tonsillitis, but it did make me want to get back to school. When I eventually had my tonsils out at age 20, the doctor wondered why I hadn't had them out as a kid.

One time the mumps was going around in Upper Boyer Hall and some of us wanted to miss school so we climbed in bed with anyone who woke up with puffy cheeks and neck. Somehow I timed my exposure wrong. I came down with the mumps the day Mom & Dad came up for May vacation and I had to stay in the Dish the first week they were there. Bummer.

One other experience I remember was when I jammed my left little toe against something when we were playing in the gym. Dr. Rosenthal checked it and declared it to be fine. It kept hurting, got really swollen, seemed to be crooked, and turned purplish-blue---so I went in again, only to be told that it was FINE. That toe, like Phyl's little finger, is still crooked.

I do remember feeling like someone noticed me and cared about me when I was sick since Annie Putz was always so kind.

Off the subject of the Dishpan but about medical events, do you remember when Richie Schramm broke his leg high-jumping on Field Day? I remember the bone broke through the skin and he had to be taken down to the hospital in the plains...probably Vellore.


Van Allen Hospital, where Loey was born