Sesquicentennial Corner—May


Until 1936, orphans, along with elderly men and women, were very much part of the life at the Citizens Hospital and Orphan Asylum. The children were busy. They studied for their classes. Some took music lessons. Siblings kept track of each other. They played. They worked. Before and after school each child had a different appointed task. In the morning some of the older ones helped with the care of the younger ones, helping them dress and fixing their hair. Then there was hot water to carry to the upper floors.  After school, until 1888, when steam heat was introduced, the younger boys carried wood and coal to the kitchens and to the rooms of the elderly. Before 1903, when electricity was first used in the chapel for Mass, the girls would gather lamps and fill them with coal oil and clean the chandeliers.

Orphans helped with all the housework. The orphans made beds, cleaned rooms and halls, worked in the laundry, and did dishes in the kitchen. On Mondays after school the children put away clothes. “With so many different children,” one of them remembered, “all of our clothing, books, or whatever we brought from home was marked.” The orphans helped with the mending. One of the Sisters taught the boys as well as the girls how to darn. One orphan remembered helping with the church ironing. A couple of the girls would help in the milk cellar, helping to process the fresh milk when it came from the barn and then washing the separator, and taking responsibility for the ice box, in between times checking the ice and the temperature of the milk when the Sister in charge was called away. One orphan, Ed Hoffman, was remembered to have driven the horse-drawn “slop” cart, collecting, and then taking kitchen garbage to the pigs. After school in the growing and harvesting seasons and during the summer, the orphans helped in the yard and gardens. The older boys worked on the farm with the Brothers and farm workers, helping with the milking, care of the animals, planting, harvesting, and all the rest — but more on this next month.