How much did it cost to have a baby in 1947?

This house is identical to the one we lived in. Thousands of economical little houses like these were built for returning veterans and their families to rent in the late 1940s. With no basements and no-frills, they were designed to last 25 years but most still exist as updated and renovated private homes today.

As we all know, our entire generation which came to be known as the Baby Boomers, was the result of all the soldiers coming home after World War 2 and starting families. They created the largest bulge of new babies in history. My own parents married and had me when they were both very young. My mother was only seventeen and my father, newly discharged from the army was twenty-one. They qualified for a little two-bedroom bungalow in what became known as “wartime” housing built in local communities across Canada to accommodate the growing numbers of young families. My mother once described those days as some of the happiest of her life. Mum and Dad lives two doors down from her sister, Aunt Betty and my Uncle George who also had a little baby girl, and other young wives and new mothers married to ex-servicemen. My Aunt Lois, her other sister would often walk up from her job at the egg-grading station down the hill in town to have lunch with my mother.

My father passed away recently and hidden in a tin box with other mementos was the original receipt from the hospital when I was born. At that time, the hospital in our small town was a converted three-bedroom Victorian house on the main street. When my mother went to the ‘hospital’ in labour during the early morning hours of September 3rd, 1947, the hospital was unable to contact the doctor because Goldie, the town’s telephone operator on the night shift had fallen asleep at her switchboard. So, the milkman was commandeered to go to the doctor’s house and get him.

This house on Front Street North was once the Campbellford Hospital. I was born there in 1947 and had my tonsils removed there in 1952. (Photo compliments of Wayne Wildman.)

In those days, it was common for new mothers to spend several days in hospital when they gave birth. My mother stayed for five days before checking out with her new baby. The total bill for her entire stay was $25.50 and was handwritten on a slip of paper that resembled a dry-cleaning receipt. The receipt appeared to be written in pencil but it is probably faded ink.

Bargain baby (me) at around nine months photographed beside our little wartime house. 

In the lower left corner is a hand-written note: Paid with thanks. Whatever medication she was given cost only fifty cents. Ouch! In those days, before universal healthcare and health insurance, my father wrote a cheque for $25.50 (about one week’s wages) which in later years he told me was never cashed. He thought that because of their young age and the fact that Dad was a veteran, the hospital gave them a break. Isn’t that amazing? So, theoretically, our family still owes Campbellford Memorial Hospital for the cost of my delivery. Three and a half years later, my brother was born in the same little building and the cost, on a similar itemized, hand-written bill was $48.00. Following my father’s death, we made a generous donation to the hospital so I think our account should now be squared.

Campbellford’s current hospital is somewhat more sophisticated than when I was born.

Out of curiosity, I Googled how much $25.50 would be worth in today’s dollars: $315.65 which is shockingly low for a hospital stay of five days. I don’t know how much it costs to deliver a baby in an Ontario hospital these days but I’m pretty sure $315.65 would barely cover the cost of parking to visit mother and baby today, especially if she delivered in a Toronto area hospital. And, mothers today are often discharged mere hours after they have given birth. I’d say my mother and father got quite the bargain. Wouldn’t you?

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2 years ago

Lynda, I love these stories. We were definitely born during different times.

2 years ago

You were definitely a bargain. A lovely story.