Little Company of Mary Hospital’s rich history includes several memorable moments and events in the 1960s. National and local historical events contribute to some stand-out memories from the decade:
Births went from 230 in the first year open to over 5,000 per year during the baby boom of the 1950s and 60s. So many babies were born at the hospital, and so many mothers were “repeat customers,” that the hospital had a “Cheaper by the Dozen” policy—have 11 babies at Little Company of Mary Hospital, and the 12th is free. Nurses said goodbye to mothers leaving the hospital by saying, “See you next year.” Only at The Baby Hospital could this scenario play out: In June 1961, a nurse found herself in a spot when she stepped into the expectant father’s room and said, “Mr. Delaney,” and two men stood up. She clarified, “Mr. James Delaney,” and they both stepped forward. Both of the men’s wives gave birth that day to healthy babies. Read more about the Baby Boom at Little Company of Mary.
Vietnam War Civil Defense Drills
People were preparing for the possibility of a nuclear attack, and so in October 1966, 110 people performed a 24 hour civil defense drill. The people, 60 of the Little Company of Mary Hospital employees enrolled in the Hospital’s shelter management program, stayed in a 100 ft by 35 foot basement air raid shelter. Participants ate “survival biscuits,” a graham-cracker like high-calorie food and rationed water. After the drill, they were qualified to direct air raid shelters.
Storm of the Century
A blizzard buried the hospital under 23 inches of snow within 24 hours on January 26, 1967. Some employees had to cross-country ski into work, and many second shift workers couldn’t make it, so first shift employees stayed overnight (napping occasionally on cots) and pulled together to continue the food service, linens and treatments.
In 1960, the Hospital introduced a new disaster plan, developed over the prior 12 years. The plan was acclaimed by the National Safety Council, and distributed as a model for similar hospitals. It was put to the test only seven years later. On April 21, 1967, Chicago’s deadliest tornado in history destroyed large parts of Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park and Hometown. In just eight minutes, the tornado killed 32 people, injured hundreds, and damaged 900 buildings. Little Company of Mary treated 201 people within two hours of the tornado, 33 of whom were admitted. A surgical doctor, Dr. James A.K. Lambur, commented that “The Hospital was like a war zone.” Ten patients were in critical condition, and two passed away. Little Company of Mary Hospital did not bill those treated for emergency care or subsequent outpatient treatment—it was a contribution to the community. The Chicago Medical Society presented Little Company of Mary with an Award of Merit in appreciation of the “splendid emergency services” rendered to tornado victims that day, stating that the efforts “constituted community service of the highest order.”
Hospital expansion continued, with several openings during the 1960s:
- 1961- New addition, increasing patient beds to 600, four times the capacity from 1930
- 1963- Medical Intensive Care Unit
- 1964- Surgical Intensive Care Unit
- 1966- Cardiac Intensive Care Unit
- 1968- School of Nursing Education building
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Information and photo from A Healing Presence: The story of Little Company of Mary Hospital’s Journey of Unconditional Love, by Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers, Maurice Possley, Editor