Life Story-My Birth by Arnie



September 11, 2007


 The place of my birth has always seemed like an irritating accident to me. My Mom and Dad just happened to be there. It was a place not connected to our family but we were there due to the force of world events and family economy.

The world event was World War II. The ability to find a good paying job had moved our family to the St. Louis area where my Dad was working in the war industry. His pay was certainly more than the one dollar a day he had been receiving as a farm laborer in western Kentucky. I am sure to him it seemed like a good thing.

It is in this point that I came into the world. My birth was on December 31, 1942 in East St. Louis, Illinois. That was a part of the irritation. My whole family had been bred and born in the south. I was the first and only one with the dubious distinction of being born in the “north”.

Yes, I was born in the Land of Lincoln. I can only hope that at least my conception occurred in the south. After all, Lincoln did have the honor of being born in Kentucky.

My paternal grandmother had hoped that I would be born on Christmas Day. That was her birthday as well as that of Aunt Vivian, her oldest daughter. No Christmas Day for me as I held out for New Years Eve. Mom always told me that she was just sure that she would win the prizes for having the baby born closest to the new year. My arrival about ten in the morning even messed that up.

The hospital where I arrived has always been a source of irritation and even embarrassment to me and my Mom. It is because I was born in a “welfare” hospital. Of course, it was not the government welfare program that we know of today. That type of program did not exist in 1942. If there was such a program it is very likely that my families economic station in life would have let us qualify. My birth occurred at the Christian Welfare Hospital in East St. Louis, Illinois. The name did not in any way imply that it was anything other than a normal type of hospital.

The hospital has long been closed and the structure is, at last visit, simply a partial brick shell of its former self. Proving once again that the world is a small, small one, I met and became friends through Rotary International with the gentleman who was the last Hospital Administrator of the Christian Welfare Hospital in East St. Louis, Illinois.

Another irritation surrounding my birth is the confusion that was created about the year of my birth. As noted, I was born on the last day of 1942. Some many years later my Mom passed on to me a framed copy of my birth certificate. It is one of those typically ornate ones with fancy script and even a photo of the hospital. It also proudly identifies the birth as occurring at the Christian Welfare Hospital.

Some time after she had provided me with this documentation of my birth, I started to examine it in detail. “Holy Mackeral”, or some other less suitable expletive, I shouted, “My birth certificate says I was born in 1943”. My first assumption was that my parents had been lying to me about the date of my birth to protect my mothers reputation.

A quick phone call to Mom cleared it all up. This was the first birth certificate she had been given. The clerk who filled out the form some time after my birth simply made an error in recording the date and reflected the new year. I would have been much happier if she had filled out the certificate to reflect that I had been born in East St. Louis, Kentucky.

How many times a year do you have to fill out forms asking for your place of birth. I can assure you that it is very many. And how many of those forms leave room for someone to write in East Saint Louis, Illinois. With spaces and commas, that comes out to twenty five little boxes on those forms. Have you ever seen enough space on these forms to record my place of birth?

Many people proudly proclaim that they were born in some idyllic location that gave them a great start in life. East St. Louis, Illinois is not a place that you proudly proclaim anything. This city has, however, been given the honor of being proclaimed the worst city in the United States.

Their only current claim to fame is a river boat casino and a large concentration of nude bars. This city has been so corrupt and poorly managed that it actually lost title to its City Hall in a liability law suit and for many years rented their offices from the new owner.

I know it is difficult to believe, but the city could not afford gas for their police cars. Police Officers were forced to sit in the cars which were parked on the street rather than going on patrol. I can only imagine that they must have tried to chase down speeders on foot.

Life for me, began in East St. Louis, Illinois. About thirty days after my birth my parents made the wise choice to go to Detroit, Michigan where my maternal grandfather and an uncle were also working in the war industry. Mom stayed with her parents and worked in the defense industry. Dad went off to Europe to serve in Patton’s army.

I didn’t know it at that time but I was pleased that my Dad could see East St. Louis, Illinois in his rearview mirror.


2 Comments on “Life Story-My Birth by Arnie”

  1. Catherine Ott Says:

    Interesting article. I too was born at Christian Welfare Hospital in East St. Louis. I was born in 1950. I always feel compelled to point out that the Welfare part of the hospital’s name is not welfare as we know it today. I thought your article interesting…the only thing one can say about East St. Louis is that it indeed is a good place to be FROM!


  2. Helen Says:

    Stumbled across your story while searching for the name of the doctor who delivered me at Christian Welfare Hospital in September 1941. Enjoyed reading this … but haven’t found the doctor’s name yet.

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