Photo of St Leeor's Nursing Home

Notes: As the source of this page was Grandma’s memory, details such as names may be incorrect.

During the war, when Grandma was approximately 25, she used to work at a private nursing home (from about 1945 to 1948).

Grandma knew the place as St Leeor Hospital.

Residents in rooms containing 3 to 4 beds paid 2 pound 10 a week, and a resident in a single room paid 5 pound a week. Nurses got paid one pound a week.

The building

Above is a photo (taken 1989) of the old house at 31 Thanet Street. The house was built in 1890 for architect Leonard Flanagan. The State Library holds Flanagan & Foy’s original specifications for the building (1890).

In 1938, Olive Leeor Anderson made application to Council to register St Leor Private Hospital at 31 Thanet Street. St Leor had previously occupied a building in Finch St East Malvern.

Around 1961, it would appear that the nursing home was expanded to fill to blocks - it was registered as numbers 29-31.

In 1986 the property was purchased by the Guide Dogs Owners & Friends Association.

When the hospital closed, (sometime prior to 2000) the building was purchased and moved to country Victoria. A second building was used for the back section of the new building - which was located somewhere outside Yarra Glen. The Thanet Street site was redeveloped.

Being a nurse

Residents knew the nurses names, but always called them “Nurse” or “Father”. Nurses received no training. Nurses did everything including

  • sweeping and dusting
  • making meals
  • making the beds
  • washing them in bed, bath them in the bath with a stool (they didn't have showers)
  • cut up squares of news paper for toilet paper and hang on string (if they wanted proper toilet paper they would have their own in their pocket)
  • roll butter into butter rolls (butter patties)
  • washing cutlery, accounting for cutlery (if not enough write on list "so many forks missing in action")

Meals were set to a weekly menu. Same meal for the same weekday every week.

Grandma had to get up at 6am to light the wood fire, required for the stove. Breakfast (porridge) had to be cooked on this stove. If nobody was looking she could use the gas stove, but had to take it off quickly before anyone saw her. They had to set the tray for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and tea.

Nurses had one day a week off. Most nurses where from the country, so Grandma was the only one her could go home to her home in Box Hill. Grandma use to go home Monday night and come back Tuesday night.

Nurses wore a blue dress with cold starch at the front. Grandma’s mother use to wash Grandma’s uniform for her.

The residents become would sit down formally on Sunday morning for church service. They would wear good clothes and gloves for the occasion. The nurses were expected to operate the radio, so they could listen to the Church Service on the radio. Unfortunately, sometimes the Catholic Church service came on instead. If the residents heard the Catholic Church service, they would get upset and call out “Father! Father! Bring me the pan!” Grandma is always amused when she recites this story.

Sister Barnes

Photo of Sister Barnes

The head matron. Also the owner. She was Olive Leeor Anderson, and then had her name changed to Olive Leeor Barnes when she married Frank Leeor Barnes.

Due to rationalization as a result of the war, there was restricted availability of rice. The head matron, Sister Barnes, would sometimes give Grandma a little packet of rice to take home, because it was not possible to buy it. Everything, including meat, butter, sugar, and clothes were rationed.

Sister Barnes gave Grandma a number of other presents, including a dozen white sheets for her wedding, a crystal cheese dish, and a set of saucepans.

Jean Anderson

Photo of Jean Anderson

She was the only one in her family who wasn’t a trained nurse, yet she could do just as good a job, if not better. She was a far more sympathetic person. She use to help with the cooking and making the beds, especially if the other nurses were running late.


One resident use to take onions from the shed in the Garden, and eat then raw. When confronted by the nurses “Vera! You have been pinching onions again” she would say “No nurse! No nurse! No I wouldn’t dream of doing anything like that. Oh no nurse!” Unfortunately, the smell would just about kill you.

Vera liked roses, and would often sit on the back veranda and sang the song “Moonlight and roses”. She also sang this song before she died. Vera would frequently ask “Have you been to the Palais to dance?”

Caunter, Rhoda, Clarke, and Thompson

Photo of Caunter, Rhoda, Clarke, and Thompson

Unfortunately, Mrs Caunter developed breast cancer. She had to have the breast removed. As such, she had the big operation at Cabrini hospital in Malvern.

St Frances Xavier Cabrini Hospital was a big posh hospital at the time. She didn’t like the hospital because it was a Catholic hospital with Catholic nurses and Catholic Doctors. One day Grandma come in to see her, and she called out “Father! Father! Bring me the pan!”. Grandma had to race around looking for a nurse to find a pan. When reciting this story, Grandma always bursts out laughing.

Mrs Caunter liked peach jam, which Grandma thought was annoying because it was difficult to find peach jam.

Mrs. Caunter shouted “if I am going to die take me back to St Leors to die”. Grandma was disappointed at the lack of gratitude she showed towards the staff at Gabrini. The doctors had been doing their best to save her live. They had to bring her back to St Leors and she died when about 90 years old.

Rhoda, 2nd from left, had been to St Catherine’s School, one of the most prestigious schools in Melbourne, like Melbourne Grammar or PLC today. She was very young (about 50) and Grandma couldn’t understand why she was in the nursing home.

Rhoda would often help the nurses.

Mrs. Clarke, 2nd from right, is mentioned below.

Mrs. Thompson, right, was tall and skinny as a rake. She use to hide her food under her knife and fork because she was worried that she was going to be poisoned. Eventually she fell over and broke her leg, and died of shock shortly afterwards.

Mrs. Newell

Photo of Mrs. Newell

Mrs. Newell went to University in England. She was born in Australia but would not acknowledge it. She loved English poetry, and could recite poetry from memory. Grandma typed a large number of such poems on typewriter (3 times with carbon copy made 6 copies) and sent the results to a publisher for professional binding.

Mrs Clarke

Photo of Mrs. Clarke

Mrs. Clarke, 2rd from right in group photo, didn’t like taking her clothes clothes off, but put her nighty on top. She had white hair.

Mrs. Day

Mrs. Day was 95 years old, use to regularly get her hair permed. Gave Grandma a special coat hanger for a wedding dress.


Jane was in the private room. 5 pounds a week. Grandma couldn’t understand how anyone could afford 5 pounds a week.

The Cook’s little girl was nearly blind. She had to get down on the floor and look at your shoes to see who you were.

Another nurse, Pat was 14 to 15. One day she bit Jean Anderson on the nose. Jean had a broken and crooked nose ever since. Another time Pat knocked Grandma against the veranda support and knocked the wind out of her.

Mrs McGilvray.