7 March 65 : An expensive baby and travel complications : Philadelphia

NOTE: Apologies that I’m behind on scanning and uploading Tony’s postcards and images to accompany the letters. Life got busy! 

This continues the letter dated 4th March 1965…

Dear Mum, Dad, Nigel, Carol and Kipp,

Sunday 7th March

Well, it’s been quite a family weekend. On Friday night I went up to see Vi and Herb and spent the evening with them.

During the evening Colin phoned from Boston to say he had been far north to Maine, the northernmost state, and next to Canada. I was very envious, but so was he when I told him I was going to Washington, Virginia, Maryland and possibly later on to Georgia, which is down near Florida.  It looks as if we are both going to see quite different parts of the country during the time we are split up.

On Saturday as Vi has no waitress – and as Herb, who has been helping her, had to report back to work – I went up and spent the day working for her in the diner. I quite enjoyed it actually, and around tea time, Tony J came in and he suggested that I went up to see Pat and the baby with him, so at 6:45pm we left for the hospital.

(NB  Tony J and Pat were neighbours of Vi, and had just had a baby. They were also related to Vi somehow. Jan had been Vi’s neighbour back in 1964.) 

It’s the same hospital where Jan works, so we had a chat with her and saw a bit of the hospital. It’s typically American, just like you see on TV, and very luxurious. When we saw Pat she was in a small room with a private bathroom and shower, TV and phone, and each day had a menu of the day’s meals.

She was fine and had had quite an easy time. She didn’t have the baby with her, but we went into a special place and could see all the babies in a special kind of ‘glasshouse.’ It’s quite a nice baby I suppose, they raved about it, but to me it looked pretty horrible!! Still I suppose they all looked the same really!

Afterwards Tony and I went out for a celebration drink, and finally at 3am decided to go home. He is now living at Jan’s, so that as Jan is a nurse she can give Pat a hand. As it was so late and I live quite a long way off, it was decided I would stay at Jan’s for the night.

They have only been in their new house for a few weeks (about six, I believe) and it’s very nice too. They seem very happy, and little Eddy (my 5th cousin) is really cute.

We arose at 9 as Tony had to go and collect Pat today (Sunday). So I went with him to act as photographer, and took colour photos of them leaving the hospital and arriving home. The remainder of the day was chaos.

The baby wouldn’t stop crying no matter how much it was fed. Poor Pat was very worried and we were all looking up baby books and the ‘instruction leaflet’ they were given with the baby – and Tony kept charging off down to the drugstore to fetch various things!! Pat doesn’t seem to know a great deal about it, mainly because she didn’t attend any prenatal classes, as you have to pay here.

Another thing I didn’t like was that Tony had to pay the bill before they could bring the baby home. Also he had to pay a deposit before she could be admitted. They were lucky because as Jan works at the hospital she was able to get quite good reductions, and the whole thing cost only $180, instead of about $400. So, they did quite well.

Also last night we went to have a look at Tony’s new house. We couldn’t go in, but it looks very nice. It’s a ranch style which really just means that it’s a bungalow. They have bought all the fitted carpets and curtains, and washer and dryer, and cooker. Verna has bought them all the kitchen furniture, so they have done very well. They have bought their bedroom and living room on credit, but it only amounts to $20 a month, which is nothing really.

We have had a slight setback in our plans to travel to New Zealand. The shipping company contacted us to inform us that the ships to New Zealand are almost fully booked for September, and they can only offer us accommodation for the middle leg, which is from Honolulu to Fiji, so we will have to fly from there to New Zealand.

It won’t cost much more, but it isn’t so much of a holiday going by plane, so we are now making enquiries about going to New Zealand from Mexico via Tahiti. As there are several shipping routes from there this would be interesting, as it means we would have to drive down through Mexico, although we would have to miss Honolulu. As you can see things are a bit vague at the moment but we will get there somehow or other.

I am not quite sure from your letter, Mum, whether you mean you are giving up work at the Skirt Shop completely or not. I think you will be silly to give it up completely, as I’m sure it is good for you. I’m sorry to hear that you still have a stiff neck, I hope the ‘mystic brew’ will do the trick for you.

Well I think I must end now as I have to get to bed, as we have we leave early in the morning for Washington. It should be interesting as we shall be able to see the White House and Kennedy’s grave etc, so I am quite looking forward to the trip.

So I will end once more, and hope that you are all fit and well.

Look after yourselves,

Love Tone  xxxx

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Note: Even now, Tony remembers very well reading Pat’s hospital accounts. He was horrified to see how detailed it was. Everything was itemised and costed e.g. sheets, towels, food, anaesthetics, medication, nappies, accommodation, doctors’ fees, etc, etc. So unlike Britain’s National Health Service! Back in the 1960s, midwives would help British mothers to give birth at home (unless she required more specialised medical care) and the father would be invited into the room to meet his newborn as soon as the mother and child had been cleaned up and made presentable.

Whether the birth took place at home or in hospital, British mothers were (and still are today) given incredible care throughout their pregnancy and birth, without ever having to worry about paying a single penny. No wonder the NHS is so beloved here in the UK!


Note: As a Brit, I’m fascinated by the American tradition of babies being separated from their mothers and lined up in cots in a nursery, behind a large viewing window. It’s a totally alien set-up for us in the UK, and yet it’s clearly been a staple of American experiences of new-parenthood over the years. There’s a fascinating article about it in the Smithsonian magazine here, which is well worth a read.

It also introduced me to THIS equally fascinating article about the premature babies in incubators who were part of the sideshow attractions at the Coney Island Fair in New York. I’ve no time to write more about it, but it’s well worth a read!

Coney Island’s longest running exhibit

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3 thoughts on “7 March 65 : An expensive baby and travel complications : Philadelphia

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