New Year’s babies, as the years go by

Published 11:01 pm Saturday, January 15, 2022

Last week’s “Can you guess the name of this New Year’s baby” post on The Greenville Advocate’s Facebook page generated quite a bit of attention. It did not take long for this New Year’s Day baby to be correctly identified. Before the baby’s name was guessed, Linda Morton of Greenville recognized the nurse pictured as Bessie Johnson. Moments later, Ashlie Owens of Georgiana positively identified the baby as Michael Smith also of Georgiana.

Smith was the first baby born in Butler County in 1972, celebrating his 50th birthday this year. He recalls his mother saying that they were given extra diapers to take home when leaving Stablers Hospital as a special gift.

When Smith was born, the national average for the price of a birth was $1500. In 1972 the average price per diaper was 10 cents. Infant car seats were about $10 each, if one was used at all. One could purchase a 32 ounce can of formula for around $4 and fill their gas tank up for around 40 cents a gallon. A gallon of milk was $1.30, a loaf of bread 25 cents, and 10 pounds of potatoes cost just 93 cents.

Although New Year’s babies are said to be lucky for life, Smith said that he has always chosen to stay at home for New Year’s simply out of precaution. He was employed as a wrecker driver for many years and worked several accidents involving people that were out celebrating their birthdays. Unfortunately, due to what he calls his lack of good luck and his consideration of the sometimes perilous road conditions that can be found on New Year’s Eve, Smith says staying off the roads has always been his choice.

Teresa Taylor of Prattville was the second baby of 1972 born in Stablers Hospital, just hours after Smith’s birth. Her father told her that the doctor was in and out of the delivery room as a very important Alabama football game was airing and he wanted to keep an eye on the TV in the next room.

In 1972, a new TV was priced between $300 and $500 with the minimum wage being $1.60. The national median income was $11,000.

Taylor recalls her mother mentioning sharing a hospital room with another mother and New Year’s baby. Twenty years after the births of the babies, Smith and Taylor were visiting with mutual friends when the subject of birthdays came up. It did not take long for the birthday twins to discover their connection.

Taylor and her older sister were often mistaken for twins themselves as children since Taylor became the big sister at only 11 months and eight days old. The New Year’s Day birth, the sister’s closeness in age, similarity of looks coupled with being born in the same year and being the same age for three weeks, are factors that have always made for great, but perhaps initially confusing conversation when the topic of birthdays is discussed.

Myra Blackburn, a lifelong Butler County resident who is now 94 years old, was the first to give birth in Butler County in 1959. She is proud of all three of her daughters and loves how conversations about her New Year’s baby provide an avenue so that she can brag on all three of her girls.

Blackburn’s New Year’s baby Jill Blackburn Autrey, who now resides in Birmingham, has always enjoyed her birthday being on New Year’s Day. Autrey finds the new year even more refreshing than most and said that there is a certain orderliness in having the calendar change to a new year on the same day her chronological odometer rolls over.

“For me, New Year’s isn’t just the start of a new calendar year. It’s the start of a new year of life.
With my birthday being at the start of a fresh year, I always look forward to the year ahead,” Autrey said.

The year Autrey was born, infant and children’s car seats did not yet exist, in fact seatbelts did not come standard on most cars until the late 1960s. By the 1960s, child harnesses, to be used as a restraint, were available for purchase for under $2. These harnesses allowed the child to sit, stand, kneel or sleep without disturbing the driver, according to the newspaper advertisement from 1961.

During the 1959 year of Autrey’s birth, a hospital stay for the new baby and mother averaged around $120. The national average for a gallon of gas was 30 cents. The price for a gallon of milk was about 90 cents a gallon. One dozen eggs was 60 cents ($5.40 in today’s dollars), a loaf of bread was 19 cents ($1.71 in today’s dollars), and a 10 pound bag of potatoes cost about 63 cents ($5.67 in today’s dollars). Minimum wage was $1, and the median income was $2,600. The first color TVs sold for $1200, a huge investment for the time.

Ethan Vickery’s mother, Cheryl Taylor, knew that her 2012 New Year’s baby was going to be an extraordinary human from day one. Ethan has always been a loving child and his big brother Matthew adores him. Matthew is 13 and has cerebral palsy. Matthew is mainly nonverbal, but he always responds with smiles and laughs when Ethan walks into the room. Matthew can only say a handful of words, and Ethan is his very favorite word to say. The boys enjoy watching cartoons on the projector in Matthew’s room. Ethan also enjoys spending time with his three-month-old niece Presleigh and he also has two older sisters, Dana and Faith.

Ethan goes to Greenville Elementary where he is in the fourth grade. His favorite subjects are science and social studies. He enjoys coloring and playing outside at school.
At 12 months old, he was diagnosed with autism. Ethan is a higher functioning autistic child that enjoys giving hugs and talking. He loves science and anything to do with the solar system. He delights in learning about the earth’s geography and has a great memory, often spouting out a wide variety of facts that many would not know. His favorite thing about being a New Year’s baby is starting each year with presents.

The year Ethan was born, the average price for 32 ounces of baby formula was $5 and the average infant car seat sold for about $30. In 2012 the minimum wage was $7.25, and the median income was $55,000. A gallon of milk was $3.49, a dozen eggs was $1.84, loaf of bread was $1.42, and 1 pound of potatoes were $.66. The national average for the cost of a hospital birth was $14,000.

Molly Killough Reaves of Greenville is the mother of a newborn and a 21 month old. She gave birth to the first baby born at Baptist East Montgomery in 2022. Killough said the birth was quite an experience when considering the impact of COVID and the related protocols. Her water broke at home and they rushed to the hospital. Hudson was born at 6:46 a.m. via an all natural birth and weighed eight pounds and 10 ounces. Baby Hudson was due to arrive on Jan. 6. Reaves said her family teased her about having a New Years baby, but she continuously told them they would be wrong. Reaves’s 21 month old son is named Finn and she is very fond of any opportunities that arise where she can talk about her children.

“My babies are my life. I love talking about them and Hudson being born on New Years Day has kickstarted many conversations about my boys,” Reaves said.

Although the financial obligations of having a baby today can vary greatly, with 90 day NICU stays costing over $100,000, the average cost of an uncomplicated delivery and the associated charges is $20,000. The current average price for 32 ounces of formula is $10. An infant car seat can be purchased for as low as $45 or as high as $500. Diaper prices average 45 cents a piece.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 and the median income is $79,900. With today’s extreme variety of choices when it comes to purchasing a television, the array of pricing is just as vast with TV’s starting at $40 with some of the largest ones selling for $5,000.

Many things have changed throughout the years and the differences can be quite astonishing when shown side by side. With approximately 130 million babies born each year in the world, being born on New Year’s Day is still held in a special regard.

Could it be the start of a new year being blessed with the start of a new life? Perhaps it is, starting the new year with the most precious gift of all. Whatever the reason, happy belated birthday to all the New Year’s babies!