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BMHC psychiatric nursing program grads gather for reunion

The Brandon Sun - 8/21/2018

Fast cars and parties -- those were two of the conversation topics at the reunion last weekend for 40 graduates of the Brandon Mental Health Centre's psychiatric nursing program.

It was two days of catching up and reminiscing at Victoria Inn for the graduates of 1963 and 1964. The group got together on Friday and Saturday to catch up, with some coming in from B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec to attend.

Searle Sheldon drove all the way from Calgary to be there.

The 20-hour drive was worth it for the 76-year-old to see some of his old friends again, including some he hadn't seen for many years.

"It was too good to miss," Sheldon said.

"We hung out together a lot in a fun time in our life, and the fact that we're still around and could get together to recall some of the adventures was too appealing to not head back," he said.

The conversation flowed for many hours between the people who showed up.

"We started talking at 9:30 a.m., and when we finally looked at the clock it was 2 p.m.," said Larry Couling, one of the graduates of the program who attended the reunion.

"I thought they might even kick us out."

The reunion included an evening banquet on Friday, a brunch on Saturday as well as a tour of the Brandon Mental Health Centre museum at what's now Assiniboine Community College's North Hill campus on Friday afternoon.

It was nice to be able to spend some time with former classmates, said Ken McPhail, who graduated from the program in 1964.

"Sitting around talking to the other people, you start remembering things you did," McPhail said. "Somebody will mention something and then you'll remember it."

Some of their conversations drifted into memories they had of the three-year course.

Back when McPhail was in the program, they would gain a lot of their experience in the wards at the mental hospital, he said.

Some of the practices of the day are no longer performed.

"There was one called insulin shock therapy, where we gave the patients insulin and it put them into a coma, and then we eventually had to bring them out of the coma," McPhail said.

"We actually got into a discussion about that at the reunion and nobody could really remember that it really helped anybody."

Outside of the classroom, there were lots of fun memories they had, he said.

One of the things they would do was head to Clear Lake just to be able to drive their cars.

"I had a big Oldsmobile, and other guys had really neat cars -- convertibles and things like that," he said.

Although a lot of his classmates didn't end up going on to pursue lengthy careers in psychiatric nursing, McPhail ended up spending a little over a year in it.

He has since retired having spent 30 years working for the Manitoba government and time spent travelling for a pharmaceutical company.

Some of his classmates went on to pursue farming, and one of them got a job in a nursing home.

But no matter the different paths they took in life, a good chunk of them came back to Brandon over the weekend to reminisce.

"It was just nice to see them," McPhail said.


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