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Life at Vicker's House

Vicker's House

Vicker's House was a Nurses' Hostel, built to meet demands of increased intake of student nurses. All student nurses were required to stay in during the period of training. The Hostel's address was 5 Hospital Drive, Singapore 169609.

 Vicker's House was officially opened by Mrs. Tan Chin Tuan, wife of Deputy President of the Singapore Legislative Council, on 29 July 1953. At the Opening Ceremony, Mrs. Tan Chin Tuan planted a tree in the hostel courtyard.

The 5-storey building was built at a cost of S$2,500,000 and it stands on 4.5 acres of hospital grounds within Outram Campus. It had 125 double-sharing bedrooms, and additional air- conditioned, sound-proof rooms on the 5th  floor, that provided accommodation for 60 nurses to sleep during the day, when they were scheduled to work night duty.

On Level 2, there were a large Function Hall and common Study Rooms. The Home Staff Nurse Office, a Convenience Store and the Waiting Lounge were located on the ground floor. There was also a huge and airy communal Dining Hall. Vicker's House was connected to the School of Nursing and the Preliminary Training School (PTS) Hostel by a covered walkway.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister, addressing the nurses -1963

Hostel Life

Vicker's House hostel life in the 50s, to the 60s, and 70s was definitely about care-free, easy-going, simple and being laidback.  It's a far cry from the bustling pace and hectic schedules we experience today. Former hostelites contributed treasured photographs of the early days and related interesting anecdotes of their lives in Vicker's House which are illustrated in this publication.

Hostel Room

Vicker's House was built with 125 rooms to accommodate student nurses-in-training, with two nurses sharing a room. In the initial batches, we were told, three nurses had to share a room.  They earned S$190 per month as a first year student nurse, and the monthly hostel rental fee of S$55 to S$65 would be deducted from their salary. The hostel fee covered full board and lodging with all meals provided.  There were Hostel Amahs who cleaned and tidied individual room, including painting canvas nursing shoes with white Kiwi shoe polish.  During the week of night duty, the Amahs even brought lunch in Tiffin carriers to their rooms. The Tiffin carriers are placed outside their rooms. The labels "M", "I" and "C" denoted "Muslim", "Indian" or "Chinese" food preferred. They did not need to wash the utensils because the Room Amahs would collect and wash them. The hostelites proudly declared that they were really 'spoilt' by the Hostel Amahs. They were treated like 'queens'

For  personal entertainment in the hostel room, most hostelites bought small transistor radios and one even installed a gramophone set in her room to enjoy some music.

The Waiting Lounge

Visitors are not allowed to the nurses' rooms, especially their "boy"friends. In those days, there were no mobile phones and only one public telephone was shared by everyone. The "boys" would either give the name of nurse or her room number and the Amah would go and inform the nurse that a visitor was waiting. The visitors would sit on the cane arm chair, with the creaky ceiling fan swirling above, waiting for his date. If the nurse was in, the Amah would see a happy couple.  If the nurse was not in, the Amah would have to face a disappointed and dejected "boy".  The The Amah would stop the "boys" and would escort them, if they wished to go beyond the Waiting Lounge, to the Common Room on Level 2.

A Chinese Amah was fondly remembered.  She donned a starched and neatly pressed white cotton samfoo.  She remembered the nurses and their visitors. While she stopped the "boys" from going up to the rooms, she would allow mothers up to the hostelites' rooms. In those days, mothers would brew "special soups" and bring home cooked food for their beloved daughters when they were on night duty.

Ms Lily Sim -  PTS 18 - with batch girls and boyfriends, behind Vicker’s House – 1954. (standing 2nd row, 5th from right)