"Will you kindly call for him about 2:30 P.M."

This letter, dated: February 9, 1920, was among the items my father had saved from his childhood. 


Durand Hospital
of the
The John McCormick Institute of Infectious Diseases
637 South Wood Street

          Mr. Richard Kallman
          3056 Clifton Ave.,
          Chicago, Illinois

                            This is to inform you that your 
          son, Karl Kallman, is now entirely recovered 
          and able to go home. Will you kindly call 
          for him about 2:30 pm and oblige.

                                                   very truly yours,
                                                   Durand Hospital
                                                   by: E. Johnson


My Dad had been seriously enough ill at the age of 3 1/2 to enter a hospital? Dad had never mentioned being ill as a child. I had never heard of the Durand hospital of Chicago. What had happened? They had to "call for him"? I would never have left my child alone in a hospital. Of course 1920 is close to a century ago. I decided to do some research.

December 29, 1911 the Northern Trust company of Chicago, as trustees of the will of Anna W Durand, purchased a site for a hospital for infectious diseases. Mrs. Durand had left $375,00 for the erection and maintenance of the hospital.* The hospital was built in 1913 and unfortunately, mainly due to the depression, lack of funding forced its closure in 1933.**

One of the reasons the life expectancy was so much shorter years ago was the high incidence of childhood morbidity due to the many many childhood illnesses exacerbated by living in cramped quarters, little knowledge of how disease spread, no antibiotics, poor nutrition, unclean water etc. etc.  The rich had personal physicians who came to them in their home. Industrialization, urbanization and immigration made hospitals necessary and the only place to receive any medical care for the poor.  Hospitals were for the poor and indigent, the "worthy poor" because back in the day many felt that poverty, illness and morality all went together. You didn't go there unless you were desperate and for good reason. You may very well not come out.  And the Kallmans were poor and probably desperate that their little boy was gravely ill. At the end of the 19th century enlightened dedicated physicians and caring citizens realized that children needed specific medical care, not the same as adults and pediatric hospitals began in the larger cities like Chicago. Many children, by the time they entered the hospital, were malnourished or at death's door. If they did survive, and that is a big if, their hospital stay was long, perhaps weeks even months.*** And those destitute scared parents were not allowed to stay with their most likely even more frightened children. 

I don't know how long they waited for that letter. I don't know how long my Dad was in the hospital, nor exactly why. Since this was a hospital dedicated to infectious disease it could have been any one of a number of childhood infectious illnesses, or perhaps the flu pandemic that had just swept through the country.  Whatever it was I am certain it took great courage and perhaps a sense of desperation for Lydia and Richard to take their sick little boy to the Durand hospital and leave him there, all the while praying the doctors could help him. 

In a previous post I wrote about a "FAMILY TREASURE". A lock of my Dad's blond hair lovingly saved by his mother.

 I had always assumed it was perhaps a memento of his first haircut as it was common back in the early part of the 20th century to let a little boys hair grow long until the age of 4 or 5. Now I see it differently. "Melvin's hair when he was 4 years old" she had written on the paper the lock of hair was sewn to. Carl Melvin was 4 in 1920. Maybe Grandma Lydia feared the worst and the clipping of hair was a memento of little Carl Melvin himself, cut just before he entered the hospital. No wonder they saved the letter that informed them their little boy was coming home.

*The journal of the American Medical Association 1911, Volume 56, issue 2 pg 127 Click here to read this passage
**The Chicago Tribune Tuesday January 31, 1933, page 1 Click here to read the article

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