Sunday, February 5, 2012


Our genealogy society usually has a "Show and Tell" program in December and it's always a challenge to think of something that will be of interest to the members and at the same time be helpful in their own research. Last December I was able to come up with both. The picture above was taken as I showed the blanket I was wrapped in when I was brought home from the hospital after being born on June 26, 1935. I also am holding my first pair of baby shoes.

What came next in my "Show and Tell" presentation was from a tiny little book given to my mother. That book was to be her guide for the next few years. In 1935 my family was still suffering from the Great Depression, and my post-natal care was provided by the "Parents Educational Center of Long Beach Social Welfare League." Inside this little book produced by the Welfare League was a monthly handwritten record of who brought me in to see the doctor and what was to be added to my diet.

On the page for September 27 (my 3-month checkup) I was given these feeding instructions: 2 oz evaporated milk mixed with 3 oz of water and 1/2 teaspoon of Karo Syrup. My mother was to continue nursing me. I was to drink water from cooked carrots, peas and spinach - 1 teaspoon to about 2 tablespoons at 2 p.m., Fruit juice and cod liver oil. I continued being taken to these monthly sessions through February and dietary additions are noted. The entries quit after I turned 7 months old.

However, it is not these items that made the most interesting reading. Here’s a photo of a page from the book. I show it in this form because if I didn’t, you might think I had made it up.

First of all, please notice what the expectations are for a child at 1 year and again at 15 months. Now I gave birth to smart kids, but not a one of them could carry glasses of water to and from the table at that age! I don't think I could do it either but I'll betcha' my mom checked to see if I could. She DID think I was pretty smart, if I'm to believe her entries in the actual baby book she kept on me.

On the next page, which covers ages 18 months through 36 months it states that at 18 months the baby should be setting and clearing off the table, wiping dishes, using a handkerchief and replacing it in his pocket and unpinning safety pins in clothes. At 24 months baby should be able to sew buttons on his clothes. Can you believe this?

When I read these pages to the "Show and Tell" audience, they began to laugh (which of course is what I wanted them to do!)

But the best was yet to come: Back in the 3-month category it says, “He should…use the vessel.” That "vessel" meant an old-fashioned chamber pot, baby-sized, of course.

I reminded my "Show and Tell" listeners that my mother kept a baby book on me, and she faithfully recorded everything I did. So I read to them this entry: “When Barbara was three months and 22 days old we began training her to ‘to-to.’” (For you uninitiated in the Dobbins euphemisms, “to-to” was my family’s word for urinating.) Yep, my mother began my toilet training when I was just a little over three months old. She took off my cloth diaper, slipped a little white tin “potty” under my tiny behind and waited to hear the magic tinkle.

She was doing exactly what the book said to do. She does not record when I finally obliged. It suspect she had a long wait but I know for sure is that I didn't show up in kindergarten in diapers!

Those were awfully preposterous guidelines, it seems to me. But I reminded the genealogy group, now composed of men and women considerably younger than I am, that when they see my generation having unusual expectations or being somewhat obstinate in a Board Meeting, consider that we were brought up with very strange goals, very different from the loosey-goosey guidelines of more contemporary child-raising.

Being placed on a cold chamber pot at three months of age has to have left some kind of residual but excusable bumps! So I begged the "Show and Tell" group to please make allowances for us.

I got a good laugh!

1 comment:

Olga said...

"Tain't funny"?? It's hysterical! Maybe that was a misprint and the child should be expected to clear the table, etc. by 18 years. Although, as I recall, my own children developed helpful habits and then lost them entirely by 18.