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'80 capsule takes nurses back in time

Mount St. Helens blasted the Northwest United States in 1980. Later that year, Ronald Reagan was elected president, and ex-Beatle John Lennon was slain. And a quarter-century ago, an era ended in Buffalo, as the very last graduating class of E.J. Meyer Memorial School of Nursing left to perform their healing services. There were 20 high-testing students in that final class.

E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital was the forerunner of Erie County Medical Center.

But on Thursday afternoon, on ECMC grounds, it was back to the past as members of that last nursing school class, for their silver-anniversary reunion reception, opened a time capsule they buried 25 years ago near an ECMC garden, marked by a stone.

"Meyer graduates are literally all over the country," said Marje Hagberg, nursing school director from 1972 to 1980. Before that she taught maternity nursing at the school.

"It had an excellent reputation. Nurses received wonderful training here."

The Meyer school, which turned out thousands of nurses since 1919, was based on a three-year-program. At one time, future registered nurses had to score well on a special test administrated at the University at Buffalo to qualify for the program. They then studied for a year at UB.

When the school closed, "it was really sad, but there was no alternative," Hagberg recalled. "With increased technology, nurses' training had to expand to a four-year program. Nursing went into different preparation."

So what did the former students find in that unearthed capsule?

A crowd of about 35 people watched as antiques, such an old-fashioned nursing cap and uniform, were welcomed to 2005. Some items, like a medicinal measuring cup, were made of porcelain.

"They may have been used in the early 1900s -- porcelain was replaced by steel," said hospital spokesman Joseph Cirillo.

There was also a porcelain candle lamp used by the followers of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing. Cirillo commented:

"It symbolizes the time when nursing was first recognized as a true profession."
e-mail: lcontinelli@buffnews.com1

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