Updated date:

Making Vats of Jello

I have been published many times and have a new book out Unlocking the Tin Box. The following story is one of many in the book.

Summertime and the living was not so easy . . .

I was hired as kitchen help at Vancouver General Hospital in 1968 and had a variety of tasks. One week I would work on the wards bringing food to the patients and the next they would throw me into the restaurant which I hated. I had worked at the Broadway Cafe just after we moved into the ugly apartment where mom sobered up. I was not good at it and the job lasted three weeks. My boss came back one night when I was supposed to be waiting tables, instead I was dancing on them. I was making a dollar an hour. He fired me on the spot in spite of my customers defending me and begging him not to fire me. They loved my dancing. Funny, that is how I started out in life making money . . . dancing on table tops at a Chinese restaurant in Kamloops when I was three and four. My sister took me there and I would dance for candy bars. I guess an eighteen year old girl in a tight white uniform, green apron bouncing while she danced was not considered cute.

At least at the hospital I was making real money. But I tried to call in sick every time they wanted me in the restaurant. Finally my supervisor recognized I was not a good worker in public and she put me in the diet kitchen. M job for eight hours a day was to make huge vats of diet jello. I stood on a stool cause I was so short, just five feet tall. I had a huge wooden paddle like a boat paddle. I looked inside the stainless steel tub where hundreds of bowls of jello would soon be. I poured in the powder, someone more responsible then me added the boiling water and then the cold and I used my big boat paddle to stir it up, stir it up in the pot. I loved that job. I did 'double trouble boil and bubble' and kept my coworkers laughing. I looked like Alice in my big white apron. Down the rabbit hole indeed.

The underground where I worked was a rat's next of hallways. The connection of underground hallways led to secret doorways and tunnels that went under the roads. I was always getting lost trying to find the diet kitchen. By accident one day I wandered down a hallway that was painted pink and had a black stripe down the middle to direct people to big white double doors. When I pushed open the heavy doors I realized I had stepped into the morgue. I stood for awhile in the silent underground room trying to get up the nerve to investigate. I saw a white mound laying on a table and realized it must be a body. I turned and ran. I scurried back down the hall to find my big vat and my huge paddle for another eight hours of mindless fun.

Somewhere towards the end of summer my friendly supervisor went on holidays and her replacement did not think it fair that I did not get rotated like everyone else so back I went onto the wards bringing trays to sick people. I tried not to engage to much; just dropped the plate of food and ran. It was hard looking at sick people but sometimes I managed a smile and a wave. My rotation in late August sent me back into the public restaurant. I lasted two days. I had a poison ivy rash on my arms from sleeping on Love Hill that was only diagnosed by my dad, so it might not have been a harmless rash. He gave me ointment but it wasn't clearing up. Several customers complained that it looked dangerous. I was informed that I would have to take sick days until the rash cleared up but I just quit. It was easier.

Related Articles