Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Story of the Burk A Bracelet

Hospital bracelet for "Baby Girl Burk A" - firstborn twin (that's me)
A recent #genchat discussion of birth traditions and records triggered my memory of this tiny beaded bracelet, which I used to keep in my jewelry box with other precious keepsakes. It is now in an archival sleeve inside a family history box along with a printout of this, the story of the Burk A Bracelet. I'm using the time spent at home during the pandemic to write more about heirlooms I will bequeath to the next generation.

After I was born, the hospital tied this tiny identification bracelet on one arm. It has pink beads (that's what they used for girls back in the day), plus my surname Burk and the letter A, indicating I was the firstborn. My Sis was Burk B, also with pink beads. We were tiny little babes, neither weighing 5 pounds, and the bracelets were teeny as well.

In our early years, Sis and I would gather around Mom (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) as she was cooking or ironing, and ask her to tell "The Hospital Story," about what happened after Dad (Harold Burk, 1909-1978) brought her to Bronx Lebanon Hospital in New York City for their baby to be born.

Here's approximately what she'd say:
"We had no idea that twins were on the way. At the hospital, Dad sat in the waiting room, holding rolls of dimes for phone calls to tell the family whether the baby was a boy or a girl. After the first girl was born, the staff was about to give Dad the news when the doctor began delivering the surprise second girl, just two minutes later. As soon as Dad found out, he pumped dime after dime into the pay phone calling relatives to tell them about the twins! You girls had to stay in heated cribs at the hospital for a few days until you weighed 5 lbs each; only then you were allowed to go home with us."
Footnotes for future generations: Decades ago, Dads usually weren't allowed into delivery rooms, so they waited in designated waiting rooms, until a hospital staff member informed them about the condition of the mother and child/children.

Rolls of dimes - from the old days when banks rolled coins and would sell to individuals or businesses. A roll of dimes had 50, total value $5.00. Since a typical local three-minute phone call cost 10 cents, this would enable Dad to make 50 phone calls...except he had lots of explaining to do, and some long-distance calls, so likely he needed more than a dime per call.

Waiting rooms had one or more pay phones--public phones that anyone could use by inserting nickels, dimes, or quarters into the slots and dialing (rotary dial) a phone number, one at a time.

Heated cribs were used when the babies were small but weren't ill and didn't need incubators, just a bit of warmth.


  1. I have a bracelet like that. They are sweet little keepsakes unlike today's plastic security bands although I guess mothers keep those too - just not as cute.

  2. Wendy, I agree that the older beaded bracelets are cute and sweet! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Wishing you and your family a healthy spring during this uncertain time.

  3. Thank you for writing this little piece of your childhood. Although I don’t believe I was born during the era when hospitals still placed these tiny bracelets on newborns (1965), I do remember one that my mother had for my oldest sister. I was asking my daughter (who has a 2 year old of her own) if she knew they used to do those bracelets for newborns. She didn’t, so I “Googled” the bracelet so she could see. My how things have changed, but I’m all for the bracelets babies wear now days, along with their parents. The thought of my baby or any of my grandchildren being mixed up or stolen is a terrible thought. We talked about looking at your baby in those first hours, trying to find any identifiable moles or birth marks, so you would know it was your baby they returned to you, (when they still took the baby to the nursery, so Mommy could rest). Much safer now that the baby rarely leaves Momma’s bedside! I enjoyed your story.

  4. Hi there, I have a similar keepsake but mine is a necklace size and only has my last name on it. Although there is space on the string where it looks like the A initial should have been, It may of been removed or misplaced.
    I’m just enquiring because a previous commenter mentioned being born too late for such things (1965), and I was born in 1979. 🤔 me from what I can gather the necklaces were replaced with the bracelet in the 1930’s or thereabouts, I’m a little confused haha
    Any information regarding would be appreciated. Thanks 😊

    1. Sorry, not sure about the necklace baby identifier...I really haven't done any research on this topic because I've been focused on telling the story of my bracelet so relatives will know what it is! Thanks for reading and commenting.