5 June 2024

Riverina Rewind: Before TV, the kids watched fish in Wagga's flash new children's ward

| Michelle Maddison
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Publicity photo of the new children's ward, September 1922.

Publicity photo of the new children’s ward, September 1922. Photo: CSU Regional Archives.

Today the Museum of the Riverina takes us back to about 1922, to step inside the new children’s ward at the Wagga District Hospital – now the Wagga Base Hospital.

Although the new hospital opened at its current site in 1910, it wasn’t until the 1920s that proper accommodation for children was realised.

A special appeal for a children’s ward was launched in January 1919 but in 12 months only £360 had been raised. After appealing to the government for funding, the Wagga District Hospital Committee were assured that if they could raise £3500 (about $343,956 today) from public subscription, the government would match it pound for pound.

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By May 1920, donations for the cildren’s ward had begun flooding in. Fundraising efforts included the donation of a sheep won by Mr Norman of The Rock in a weight guessing competition, a 50lb bag of flour won by Mr W. Robertson (donated by Mr R.H. Blamey), 6 oz. of aerated waters from the Crystal Cordial Company, 10 lb. of butter from the Freezing Works and cash donations from JJ Baylis, the Riverina Club, Union Theatres Ltd., Wing Tiy and Co., and Jas. Martin and Co. The Wagga Grammar School also donated its takings from a fundraising concert held in the Oddfellows Hall in December 1919.

The magnificent new wing was completed by September 1922 at a cost of £9000 including the furnishings and equipment.

Taking up the whole upper storey of the hospital building, it measured 64 x 25 feet (19.5 m x 7.6 m) and had an 11-foot, 6-inch (approx. 4 m) verandah running along one side and end. It was furnished in the most modern manner with 16 white enamelled cots inside the ward and five on the balcony each with a nickel plate bearing the name of the donor. It had white fittings, white walls and ceiling, a stained hardwood floor and marble tables.

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In January 1948 an aquarium was added to the ward, with the theory that a fine aquarium full of goldfish would help while away the tedious hours in bed for the small patients.

Australian National Airways (ANA) donated a dozen fish and a glass aquarium measuring 3 feet x 18 inches x 18 inches to the ward.

Another 10 fish were added through Wagga donations, and an appeal was made in Sydney for more through Sun Newspapers Ltd. ANA donated the cost of air freight for the fish to be flown from Sydney.

We just wonder who had to clean the tank!

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IOt was the Nurses of course ! I was a patient in the Childrens Ward (Ward 9) several times in the 1960s and I well remember the nurses cleaning the tank . I suspect now that would be classed as a “Non Nursing Duty !!!

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