A Toy Hospital

This story resonated with me because one of my childhood memories is spending several hours (or perhaps even days or weeks) developing a school curriculum (list of classes) for my imaginary school, developing student lists, assigning students their schedules, and developing blueprints for my toy school. Apparently I couldn’t get enough of school.

kathleen-and-rosemary anne young


Anne’s story about her grandmother Kathleen illustrates the impact of the 1918 flu pandemic in Australia on an 11 year old girl who heard bits and pieces from her parents and incorporated these into her creation of a 50-bed imaginary hospital, complete with newsletters. Kathleen’s father was a surgeon and her mother was involved with charity work. Due to some good prevention measures, Australia didn’t feel the impact of the flu until 1919, which is when Kathleen wrote her newsletters.


Kathleen’s newsletter, Stuffed Notes, told about daily life at a hospital where Kathleen was the Matron. It is an intriguing look into how a child absorbed the impact of the 1918 flu. Through its pages you can see when the number of flu cases started increasing dramatically. At first only 1 or 2 flu cases is mentioned, but then a much larger number of flu cases, including some very dangerous, are mentioned. Patients are also in the hospital for diphtheria, typhoid fever, and injuries from traffic accidents.

One undated entry reads (Ann retained Kathleen’s original spelling in her blog post):
Cases = 12
Deaths = 4
Dangious = 3
Mild = 5
Nurse Wagga is quite well now and has gone away for a Holiday a Henly Beach.
We are not removing the Influenza cases to the Isolation Hospital at the Exhibition. As we heard the conditions are not very good.
All the Hospital sends thier love.
K.C. Cudmore
To read the entire set of entries and see several pictures related to the flu outbreak in Adelaide, please read Anne’s blog.
Story credit goes to Anne Young, as do the photo credits.
The first photo is of Kathleen and her sister Rosemary.
The second photo is the first page in the Stuffed Notes notebook.

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