Renate talks about her career in nursing. She describes the coincidences that led to her meeting her first husband, Fred Goldschmidt.
INT: And at the end of school you decided to become a nurse, am I right in saying?
RM: Yes, well, my older brother, who had gone to University at a time when a lot of the ex-soldiers were coming back, anyway, for some reason or other what he wanted to study was engineering and you didn’t do that in St Andrews, it was in Dundee. And he spent most of the time on the train playing cards and so on so he didn’t do very well and my father was bitterly disappointed.
I wanted to be a nurse but my father said, nurses didn’t have a good reputation, in a way and he said, “No, no, no if you are interested in medicine you must study to be a doctor,” and I was actually very lazy and hated exams and I knew… five years… I’d met enough medical students by this time. Anyway, one of my teachers, luckily, said to me, “If you want to be a nurse you have to go to the Florence Nightingale Training School in London” [at St Thomas’ Hospital].
And strangely enough the daughter of the minister of the town church, who was head girl at St Leonards, she went to St. Thomas’. So, anyway, my father wrote to the Matron of St. Thomas’ and signed himself Erwin Finlay Freundlich. The double barrel seemed to have worked and so I was invited to St Thomas; I was enrolled, and everybody said afterwards it was quite an honour to be accepted.
INT: And by that time did you feel yourself as having properly integrated into Britain or did you still feel…?
RM: Oh no I still felt very European.
INT: Did you?
INT: Did you find people were more willing to befriend you by this time? Local people?
RM: No, I think, sadly…my mother didn’t settle well and my father, I think, didn’t, although the University was good in many ways, to him.
When he became sixty-five he was in the middle of a research project which he wanted to finish so they allowed him to stay on until he was 70. but as he also had gone to Germany to see what relatives were left and found a brother and several nieces, and, with restitution, he decided to go back to Germany in 1958, much to Fred’s, to my husband’s, chagrin.
INT: Yes so you studied Nursing in St Thomas’?
RM: No. I didn’t.
INT: You didn’t?
RM: I was too young, unfortunately. The Matron accepted me but said – I think then I was sixteen and a half when I went for the interview – and she said, “No go to the Edinburgh School / College of Domestic Science where they have a pre-nursing course, which will get you through the first two exams” – the hygiene…anatomy, physiology, hygiene, dietetics.
But unfortunately the pre-nursing course first of all had a year of domestic science, where my father said all I learned was how to peel potatoes with mathematical precision. Or.. Did you know you should sweep a room from the window to the door? Oh and how to engage and dismiss a maid.
INT: Very useful.
RM: So we all, all of the ones that were on this [course], the pre-nursing ones, we all decided at the end of the first year we would just go and find ourselves another job and somebody in my class at school in St Andrews had gone to the City Fever Hospital. So she was a year ahead of me, so I just followed in her footsteps and did fever nursing.
INT : At Edinburgh City Hospital. And then how did you meet your husband?
RM: Ha! That’s another long story. Yes, all right, my father came from St Andrews to Glasgow as an external examiner and at the University had met a very nice man called Doctor Ornstein. I think, I can’t remember exactly what he was… I know he was in product engineering., but anyway, anyway.
One evening, the Goldschmidt family consisting of my [future] father-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law, Liesl were on their way home from the factory they had established between Gallowgate and London Road just past Glasgow Cross. They were going home to Thornliebank and, however, they had borrowed a book… (The German Jews that came to Glasgow tended to congregate together, right?) And they sent Liesl upstairs to the Ornsteins to return the book and Liesl was an awfully long time coming back. So when she got back in the car she said the Ornsteins have the most fascinating visitor, so when my mother-in-law got home she phoned Mrs Ornstein and said, the next time you have this fascinating visitor please invite us as well.
RM: Fred, would be four years older than me, also, was away studying already in Leicester. When he came out of college he was full of ideas but his mother wouldn’t sort of, you know, let him bring these into the factory so Fred, disillusioned, went off to Canada for a while, where he was going to start his own little business but then his father died so he came back. Right. Oh at Liesl’s wedding my parents met another German Jewish family called Pauson anddiscovered they also had paintings by Lyonel Feininger, a quite well known…[artist]
INT: So you met your husband and…
RM: No, no it was through the Pausons that I met Fred. right?
INT: Ah, right.
RM: I’ll try and be very, very quick, OK?
At the wedding they met the Pausons and they said, “Come and see our paintings”. So one of the days when I came home to St Andrews on nights off or something, the Pausons were just leaving, getting on the train. (Oh my father was going to America to see another observatory, Mount Wilson, goodness knows what they had… yet a bigger telescope?) And so they said, “When your parents are away and you have nights off come and stay with us”. And that suited me very well because I had met another medical student. However, the long and short and tall was the first time I arrived Mrs Pauson said “You must go to bed because Fred Goldschmidt is coming to take you to the concert tonight and he’s just come back [from Canada). He’s living with his mum and he doesn’t know any nice Jewish girls”.
INT: Lovely and they…
RM: I said, “No, no, no I’m going out. I’m meeting Ian, the medical student, for tea” at theCa’ D’Oro. However, when Fred… Oh yes, apparently when Mrs Pauson phoned Fred, who was a dutiful son, he said, “All right I’ll take her to the concert on Saturday but I’m busy all day Sunday”. So anyway, when he came, actually I just fell for him straight away and at the concert we turned to each other and said exactly the same thing, and anyway, that was how I met Fred.
INT: That’s very nice