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Nursing Veteran Mounts a Collection That May Be Only One of Its Kind

June 28, 1989|Herbert J. Vida

In a nostalgic sort of way, Norma Grundy feels a closeness for her collection of bedpans.

After all, she spent much of her life cleaning them.

"I came by it honestly because I'm a nurse," said the nursing director and clinic administrator of the mental health division at the UC Irvine Student Health Center. "You know, they're fun to look at."

They may be called bedpans by most people today, Grundy said, but those who used them decades ago affectionately referred to them as "chamber pots," "thunder mugs" and "chambers of delight."

"In years past, a Frenchman would present one to his fiancee as a wedding gift," said the Fountain Valley woman, who was the first nurse to work at the university's health center when it opened in 1965. She has four children and three grandchildren.

Times have changed and so have the shape and material of bedpans, said Grundy, who points with pride to the 44 zinc, porcelain, stainless steel and tin bedpans that hang on the wall of her small office.

She has decorated some of the older pans with silk flowers, small stuffed animals and decoupage poems. One day, she said, she plans to put a clock in her small, round, 1800s ceramic model from England.

"I have the most fantastic collection you can imagine," Grundy said. "It's fun looking for them and adding them to the collection."

Grundy credits her father for starting the collection. But the display was prompted by a colleague at UCI.

"One of the psychiatrists on the staff thought my office wasn't bright enough and brought in an 18th-Century French chamber pot, and that started the office decoration," she said.

And that collection, she jokingly contends, helps troubled students feel they're not so bad off in today's society.

"When Chancellor Daniel Aldrich retired four years ago, we had a celebration and all of us wore hospital gowns and body stockings and carried the bedpans. . . . We used them for drums, and we won first place for the best costumes."

So well known is her collection in and outside the university that theater groups throughout the county contact her to use the bedpans when they stage Victorian plays.

"The collection just magically grew, and I don't know anyone else that collects them."

Many of her bedpans have come from people who know of her collection. "I got one from someone who was tearing down their house and found it in a closet, and another from a student who saw it on top of a trash can," she said.

Grundy is having fun with her collection and claims to have the best job in the world. But the 58-year-old woman also has her sights on the future. "One of these days I would really like to join the Peace Corps and teach children how to sing and teach mothers how to take care of their children." In 1973, she served as the nurse on a World Campus Afloat cruise to the Pacific.

But the Peace Corps may be a few years away.

"I'm really having a lot of fun now and there's so many surprises in what I'm doing. It's a good life," she said.

Gail Greer never thought her first trip to a weekend wine tasting in Temecula would turn into a new life style.

But when the Costa Mesa woman retires next month as purchasing coordinator for the Coast Community College District in Costa Mesa, she and her husband, Bruce Greer, will return to Temecula as full-time residents and owners of a 10-acre vineyard.

They bought their new home and vineyard a year ago and already are selling their grapes to two of the 11 wineries in Temecula.

Both are members of the Orange County Wine Society and said they have had some success making their own wine.

Does that mean they'll eventually open a winery? "I'm one of those people who take one day at a time," she said.

Acknowledgments--Saddleback High School graduate Douglas P. Enright, first place math and science finisher in the 1988-89 Orange County Academic Decathlon, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship from Hughes Aircraft Co. The Santa Ana resident is the first to qualify for the new scholarship. Enright, 18, will attend UCLA, where he plans to study applied mathematics.

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