Besides boasting the spirit of the Fighting Irish, South Bend, Indiana, is teeming with stories and history in its branch of Memorial Health Hospital. Last week StoryCorps Door-to-Door’s team was hosted for two days by the Memorial Health Foundation in the hospital’s Health Discovery Center, where Facilitators witnessed conversations between pairs of the facility’s staff. Doctors, nurses, loading personnel, security guards, and St. Joseph County Health Department representatives described their work experiences at Memorial Health, shared their memories of South Bend from the 1950s to the present, and discussed solutions to the leading health issues of their community.
Friends and hospital employees Avis Taylor and Terry Baldwin sat down with StoryCorps and likened the unity they felt among their staff at Memorial Hospital to the harmony they felt in the South Bend of their childhoods. Both women are South Bend natives and have seen their share of local changes over the years, particularly the comings and goings of local businesses.
One former business owner remembered was “Grandma” or Beatrice Wilder, Terry’s grandmother by marriage. Beatrice was one of South Bend’s first African-American businesses owners and owned a small string of hotels and restaurants in the 1950s and 1960s, most notably the Wilder Hotel and the Liston Street Hotel. A legendary cook in both her family and the community, Beatrice’s legacy is her skill at the stove, according to Terry. “She could turn an empty fridge into a three-course meal.” Ever since Beatrice’s death, Terry says, “I took a combination of her cooking skills and my great-grandmother who raised me, and I started cooking. And I’ve been cooking ever since.”