By Greg Clark, May 9, 1925
The Toronto General Hospital is supposed to be up-to-date.
But it isn’t. It has not got a cinder track for expectant fathers.
Except for a sort of sitting room on the extreme north or polar extremity of the fourth floor (Baby Department) of the private pavilion, it has no accommodation whatever for the party of the second part during that mysterious and heart-searching adventure into the past and the future in quest of a baby.
“Where shall I – where could – might I – er – ahh!” gasps a scared young man who wanders in a lost and forsaken manner in the busy corridor of the fourth floor.
“Go sit in that sitting room down there,” says a bright and vivid nurse, whisking by.
It seems miles away from the centre of activities, which is a room with a stern door through which, a moment before, he saw wheeled nine tenths of the known world (who probably, waved a hasty hand to him!).
But with the determination Napoleon must have felt when he marched them up the hill and marched them down again, our young man starts out on the journey to that sitting room at the far and lonely end of the fourth floor. The color of the curtains, tables, rugs, in that little sitting room must be graven on the memories of countless hundreds of Toronto papas.
If he is extremely lucky, he will find nobody else sitting there. If he is unlucky, he will discover one or even two other expectant fathers already trying to sit still in the roomy wicker chairs. All will be doing their best to appear calm. One will try to pretend he is a doctor, just merely taking a well-earned rest. Another will have a sad look on his face, as if he were grieving for his great-grandmother who is at this moment undergoing a serious operation. He doesn’t know what everybody else knows that any gentleman sitting around the fourth floor doing nothing with the best air he can summon up, is nothing more nor less than the party of the second part feeling like thirty cents in Ukrainian money.
They haven’t even a few magazines lying about that sitting room to give a fellow a chance to hide his face. No: you have to sit there in an upright position and face the world. And the world seems to be staring you bung in the eye and saying: “Well, you big, fat, pampered, unworthy, helpless son of a gun!”
Scheme For Cinder Track
You can always tell whether it is the first experience or the second. Only the first and second experiences bring the men out. From then on, father just telephones from the office to hear how things are going.
If it is a first experience, he keeps jumping up and walking with an air of purpose up the hall, stopping all the nurses – who don’t know him from Adam nor his troubles – or descending hurriedly into the courtyard of the hospital to smoke an agitated cigaret. There are more millionaire-size cigaret butts scattered around the courtyard of the General Hospital than anywhere else in the city. The expectant fathers are responsible.
Some days there are as many as three, four and five of the poor fellows milling about the sitting room, corridor and courtyard all at the same time. This has caused the nurses to work out a scheme for a cinder track to be laid all around the hospital for the use of expectant fathers. A locker room, fitting up with free sets of running shorts and jerseys, in which the papas could dress for the chase is one requisite. They could then be sent out to run round and round the hospital, to give them something to do. The head nurse of the floor could call out the window, reporting progress, and call the winners in to receive their prizes in due course.
Another improvement that is really needed Is a peep hole — with sanitary precautions of course, — into the nursery. On the door of the sanctum where the babies dwell is a sign which reads: “Babies must not ever be shown between feeding times.”
At two, six, ten and two, around the clock, there is a sudden scurrying and scattering on the fourth floor, as the nurses raid the nursery and carry the babies about to their respective mothers. The air is filled with babies. That is the time to be on the fourth floor. But unless you are there, you don’t see a baby, not even your own. A father may demand to see his firstborn son and heir. But a pretty little nurse, about five feet high, will simply smile at the towering and majestic male, father of a son, and shake her head until her frail cap works loose. Feeding time only.
Now, if they only had a nice little peep hole in the wall like that hole in the theatre curtain through which the actors count up the house, the fathers could take turns peeping in.
It is a pretty suggestion. It is respectfully called to the notice of the directorate.
Editor’s Notes: This is from a time when men were expected to sit in waiting rooms while their wives gave birth.
A race tracks used to be composed of cinders. Synthetic tracks emerged in the late 1960s. The 1964 Olympics were the last to use a cinder track.
Cigarettes were still sometimes spelled “cigarets” in the early 20th century.
The illustrations for this little side story were drawn by Jim.