Beginnings: 1920-1925

Mission Memorial Hospital Auxiliary is the perfect example of ‘from little acorns do large oaks grow.’ Before 1920 there was no hospital in Mission – the nearest public one was in New Westminster. In 1919 Mrs. Beryl Lambarde wrote in the Fraser Valley Record of the need for a hospital that would be a living memorial to the men who died in World War 1.

On April 9, 1920, a group of ladies met and formed the Auxiliary and elected Emma Houlder president. She also became a member of the newly formed Hospital Board. Both groups worked hard. They rented a two-story house on the corner of Third and Birch. A Bazaar raised $150, with which they purchased bedding, table linen, nightshirts, and towels. They helped prepare the hospital for its first patients. The temporary hospital opened on May 15, 1920.

Then the fund-raising really began. They worked for money to help with the running of the hospital and also for money to help pay for the planned new hospital to be built on James and Fifth. Afternoon teas and bake sales, musical evenings, plays, tag days. The Auxiliary even did catering for social groups in the town, bought dishes that were rented out, and in 1924, together with Hospital Board, raffled off a Ford Coupe. May Day, with its parade and bazaar, became a big money maker.

The first hospital was used from May 1920 until February 1925, when the new hospital on James and Fifth was a reality. The work of Mission Memorial Hospital Auxiliary had hardly begun!

The old hospital in Mission BC 1925-1965

The Old Hospital: 1925-1965

Holding on and making do were the watchwords of the hospital on Fifth and James. The approaching depression, the depression, and the war years did not help Mission Memorial Hospital and the Auxiliary in their quest for funds.

Fund-raising activities during these years involved the May Day – held every year since 1921 on Empire Day, May 24 – tag days and raffles, the annual bazaar, and the Strawberry Festival. The community provided generous support.

The Auxiliary also solicited the aid of all city and district organizations – the volunteer groups helped reduce the operating costs of the hospital by the donation of funds, upkeep of wards, dishes, linens, or fresh and canned produce. During this time, one of the big and never-ending chores was looking after the hospital’s linens which were in constant need of repair or replacement.

The late 1940s and the 1950s were again times of survival and change. There was a large population growth – war veterans returned with their brides, and the Strawberry Festival had been good publicity for Mission.

The Auxiliary raised $5,159 in 1947. This was spent on a sterilizer, an operating room table, and on supplies such as blankets, linens, and gowns. A membership drive attracted 56 newcomers, but they did not all join.

In 1948 a Junior Auxiliary was formed, with members younger in age and with some different ideas. Many were mothers with young children or businesswomen. Afternoon meetings were impossible, so they met in the evenings. Miss Mary Malone was the first president, and there were twenty-three members.

The Junior Auxiliary and the Mission Memorial Hospital Auxiliary had a cordial and, for the most part, cooperative relationship. The Junior Auxiliary organized Harvest Teas and Food Drives and offered to help the senior group with the Country Fair and the Strawberry Festival. They worked together on hospital sewing needs and a giant card party in 1950. The younger group tended to raise funds through social methods – monthly Saturday night dances, wine and cheese parties, progressive dinners, a fashion show, and an art show. The days of bake sales and afternoon teas began to decrease. Both groups ran raffles.

By 1964 things were rapidly changing. The new hospital was being built – a few years before, there was the threat that Mission’s residents would have to go to Haney, where a new hospital in that area would have serviced the North Shore communities. The Senior Auxiliary had a decreasing membership, and it was decided to dissolve as only five members remained. This occurred by March 1966, and any remaining funds went to furnish a four-bed ward in the new hospital. There was a new trend for Auxilians everywhere to work in hospitals. Until then, their job was to raise funds, and anything else was done at other locations. In 1961 the first ever ‘in-hospital service’ began with the installation of a cigarette machine! Proceeds averaged six dollars a month, with sales averaging three packs a day. Cigarette sales stopped in 1976.

Permission to operate a mobile stall to supply patient comfort in the new hospital was requested as early as 1961. It was not put into operation until the new hospital opened.

With the opening of Mission Memorial Hospital on Hurd Street, equal emphasis was on fundraising and service as the Auxilians started to work in the building.

Mission Memorial Hospital, Mission BC

The Hospital on Hurd Street: 1965

1965 saw the opening of the new hospital and the demise of the original Hospital Auxiliary. For the Junior Auxiliary to assume the name of the Mission Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, both groups had to dissolve to meet legal requirements.

A new name for the Junior Auxiliary was only the start of change. More space and the new philosophy meant more services could be offered, more services meant that more workers would be required.

The new administrator, Neville Cox, was delighted to welcome the services of the Auxiliary and helped with the restructuring and formalizing of services. A Manual of Policies and Procedures was prepared. A salmon pink color uniform (it was supposed to be red) was to be worn by each member, plus a name tag and an Auxiliary Crest.

Expanded service meant an increase in revenue. The Hospital Board, and now the Hospital Foundation, made the hospital’s needs known to the Auxiliary. The Auxiliary made the final decision. For years the purchase of new equipment became the Auxiliary’s main goal.

But as the services and needs of the hospital declined, so the work of the Auxiliary moved out into the community. The guiding principle of the Hospital Auxiliary since 1920 has been the service to others.

The information from 1920 – 1965 has been gleaned from the work of the late Auxilian Betty Dandy in the book Mission’s Living Memorial, where she researched and wrote the chapters on Mission Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.