Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Surviving Childhood

The other day, I decided to get busy and sort through a drawer full of photos and documents that I had been neglecting for far too long. Amongst the photographs were souvenirs from graduations, school photos (the kind your kids wish you hadn't saved because they didn't like the way they looked in grade 10), and documents that I had long forgotten.

Two in particular spoke to my infant years and made me wonder how I had survived.
Below is the card the hospital used to label my bassinet. I was born at St. Michael's Hospital in downtown Toronto, Ontario. It was the hospital where my mother trained and worked as a registered nurse so it was only natural that she went there when it was time to welcome me into the world. The cards had been donated to the hospital by the Carnation food company and my card shows that my mother was in Room 6AS ('S' for south). I was born on March 3rd at 11:52 a.m. and weighted in at 8 pounds and 11 ounces (or as fishermen would say - "a keeper"). I was also 23 and one half inches in length.

The doctor who delivered me was Dr. Solmes (my mother spoke often about her friend Dr. Gerry Solmes) and he used "low forceps" for my birth, a procedure my mother told me about quite often as it apparently caused bruising on my temples (which some have suggested might explain a lot).

While it is not a birth certificate, it is a birth record that is a little out of the ordinary!

My mother had me seen in childhood by another doctor friend, Dr. Hoare, the pediatrician. I remember Dr. Hoare making house calls to check in on my brother Stephen (see "I Remember Stephen" from November 2009). Dr. Hoare was a stern looking man who provided my mother with the prescribed baby routine pictured below. Dr. Hoare's 'prescribed' routine was given to my mother on August 6, 1955, apparently a short time after his office was changed from a 6 digit to a 7 digit telephone number (just to make me feel really old).

It seems that Dr. Hoare thought strained meats and vegetables would be exciting to me. They are not and never have been. The thought of strained beef liver or heart simply does not excite me but, here in writing were the instructions my mother was provided ostensibly to promote my health. Even the so-called deserts leave much to be desired: mashed ripe banana, strained stewed prunes and junket - according to Wikipedia, junket was the a preferred food for ill children during most of the 20th century. Notice it says ill children, not healthy children.

Another fascinating document to have that speaks to a past era of child rearing and makes me wonder how I survived childhood!


  1. Ian, these are treasures to have. I note on the instructions about having the afternoon nap outdoors. It was common then to put the children outside in the carriage. I don't think mothers would ever do that now, especially unattended.

  2. Dear Ian:

    We've never met, but I was also born at St. Mike's and have an almost identical card as you, except mine is pink. Just recently I also ran into my mother's copy of Dr. Hoare's instructions to her, which were very similar to yours.

    I remember vaccinations in Dr. Hoare's office. They hurt much more than vaccinations do today, because the needles had to be sterilized and thus burned, as well as the pain from the shot itself.

    I was in Dr. Hoare's office the day that Walt Disney died. Dr. Hoare was shocked, and said to me that Mr. Disney was far too young to have died, although, he said, I was so young that I couldn't possibly imagine anyone being that old.

    My sister had scarlet fever and we were all quarentined. It was a much more dangerous disease then than it is now. Dr. Hoare came to the house every day for ten days to give her injections.

    It was nice to read your memories. Thank you for sharing them.

    Sincerely, Susan Watt-Hannah

  3. Dear Ian:

    I forgot to add that it was indeed common practice to let babies sleep outdoors. You could tell who had children on the street, because their babies were napping on the front porch.

    I have six children, all of whom had their naps outside.


    1. Susan, Thanks so much for both of your comments. Like you, I still remember Dr. Hoare, not so much the needles but certainly the house calls.