The Great baby Mystery
Now, back in the late 40’s and early 50’s, children were not too savvy about reproduction issues. We wondered, of course, but no parent was willing to give out information.
Thus, we were left on our own to imagine where babies came from. My best friend, Suzanne, and I talked about this at length. She was an only child and I, being the tail end of my family, was almost the same. Both of us longed for a sibling more than anything else in the world. But we never got one regardless of how often we prayed or asked our parents.
We did know something about this mystery…we’d noticed a few clues. One being that a woman wore a loose-fitting blouse just before she got a baby. My aunt gave Mama a new kind of housecoat in 1949 called a “duster.” Each time Mama wore it I’d be encouraged a baby was on the way, but it never happened.
The next clue came from overhearing whispered conversation. Women spoke of some lady being “P.G.” We weren’t sure what this meant. Maybe it was some awful disease, like Polio. I wasn’t allowed to go swimming or attend indoor movies because those germs could be catching. Yet, these “P.G.”women later turned up with babies. We consulted friends. Mary Lou Crouse said the stork brought them.
Now, we’d seen pictures of storks in the encyclopedia and knew that none of these big birds had flown into Carthage. We’d have seen ‘em. Charlotte said her older sister told her where babies came from, but we knew that theory couldn’t be true. Our parents would never do THAT!
So we moved to the next clue. Each time a new baby appeared, Dr. Cox had been there first. He’d go to the woman’s house who’d been “sick” and the next morning there’d be a baby in her bed.
So, women got these babies at home. They rarely ever went to the hospital. Several friends told us kids couldn’t be present after Dr. Cox was called. They had to go to their aunt’s or Grandma’s.
This had to be the most important clue. Dr. Cox brought that baby with him when he came and he didn’t want anyone seeing him bring it in.
This clue gave Suzanne and me the resolve to get to the bottom of the mystery. It was summer and we were out of school. We could play and roam the town at will. We began to hang around the doctor’s office. By standing on a pile of rocks we could peer inside the back window. There were shelves of medicine and a long, white table with other paraphernalia we didn’t understand. But no babies…no crying sounds either.
After awhile, we came up with a new strategy. We’d follow him in his old Plymouth as he made house calls. This worked fine because he drove slow and town wasn’t that big. We stood away off, watching him heave his heavy body from the car, always carrying that mysterious, black bag. That’s where he carried the babies–in that bag!
Yet, none of these house visits yielded a baby.
One afternoon, Suzanne received a divine revelation! We were sitting on my lawn, searching for four-leafed clovers when she exclaimed,
“I know where he keeps those babies!”
“Where??” I asked.
“In his storm cellar!”
I thought about it a minute and it began to make sense. The Cox’s were the only family with a storm cellar and we’d never had a tornado. Why’d they have it? To keep those babies fresh! Immediately, we began our plan. We knew the doctor went to bed early. I’d go to Suzanne’s and we’d tell her Mama she was going to my house. But, after walking by the cellar one last time, the door appeared too heavy to lift.
We decided to engage the help of our friend, Morgan Nutt. We ran to his house and called him outside. At first, he was wary about entering the doctor’s property, but after being offered a bribe of two Captain Marvel funny books, he agreed to meet us there at dusk. Suzanne didn’t tell me that I’d have to pay for one of those funny books!
Early dark found us near the edge of the cellar. The house was dark. Suzanne and I were nervous but Morgan was looking forward to his prize. We crept to the cellar. No crying sounds. They’d probably been fed and were asleep.
Morgan tried to lift the door. It didn’t move. He strained. No budge.
“Now, Y’all are gonna’ have to help me!” He gasped. On the count of three, all six hands lifted the door to a mere crack. Nothing but the smell of rotten potatoes and mildew inside. Suzanne beamed her flashlight down to a bare floor. Disappointed, we let go our hands and the door slammed down on Morgan’s thumb! He yelped like a banshee while Suzanne and I panicked. Moments later, Dr. Cox came to the door in his nightshirt and yelled, “Get out of here! I have a gun right inside this door!”
That extra fright gave Suzanne and me the adrenaline to lift the door to free Morgan’s thumb. We three ran like crazy for three blocks before stopping, panting.
Morgan had his funny books to read while his injured thumb healed. Days grew shorter and summer came to an end with Suzanne and me continuing to catch lightening bugs in Mason jars, searching for the elusive four-leaf clover, and still trying to solve “The Great Baby Mystery.”