Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How Many Baths Given At School?

When I was in Kalamazoo a while back my mom and I made a trip to the Kalamazoo Public Library. After crossing some things off my list I took a few minutes to look around the stacks to see what caught my eye. I noticed the official proceedings of the Board of Education for the city and township of Kalamazoo. I was curious what sorts of things would be recorded so I began flipping through the book for 1926. A lot of what I saw consisted of financial expenditures, but I did come across two reports that I found quite interesting.

The annual reports of the school dental hygienist and the school nurse gave me pause.

Here are some items from the yearly report provided by Mildred McBride, dental hygienist.

Schools examined: 10
Number of children having teeth examined: 5390
Number of children having teeth cleaned: 1690
Reported use of a tooth brush: daily 2096, occasionally 2189, not used 1105
State of teeth: clean 1756, fair 2076, dirty 1487, foul 71
Number of teeth filled: 4483
Cavity in baby teeth: 9404
Number of baby teeth extracted: 7022
Cavity in adult teeth: 7314
Number of adult teeth extracted: 128
Number of children needing no dental work: 643

I found it interesting that some children actually had their teeth examined at school. I certainly don't remember that when I was in elementary school. It's possible that by the time I was in school there was better dental hygiene so schools no longer had need of dental services. Alternatively, the schools may have had to cut their budgets. I would guess it was the latter.

The Supervising Nurse, Anna Farthing (R.N.), submitted the following information in her yearly report.

Number of school inspections by school nurses: 30,233
Number of school visits: 1090
Home inspections: 160
Home visits: 1437
Number of cultures taken to lab: 19
Number of eye tests: 958
Number of hygiene classes: 137
Number of children excluded on account of contagion: 319
Number of cribside operations: 58
Number of toxin anti-toxin treatments: 173
Total number of bad tonsils removed: 331
Total number of baths given: 146
Number of inspections for contagious disease: 10,004
Number of heart cases taken to physicians: 2

That some children actually received baths at school also surprised me. It begs the question of how dirty a child had to be before a school bath was performed. While this book provided an interesting snapshot into the Kalamazoo schools in 1926, I'm curious to know how these statistics changed over time. The next time I visit the KPL I'd like to see how far back these records extend so I can compare the services over time.

Board of Education of the City and Township of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Special Meeting. Official Preceedings. 2 June 1926. (Publication information was not found within the volume) 24-25.


  1. Marie Pierce MackeyFebruary 9, 2016 at 9:38 PM

    I was intrigued that so many of the generations after about 1940
    would have no memory of the depression years and what it did to families. Yes, it is true that regularly we had teeth checking
    at schools, It is my belief it was sponsored by the Kalamazoo Dental Society, although there was a room with a dental chair, don't know who paid for that. I do know my mother's dentist was one of the dentists, a Dr. Moe (dentist). They then sent notices home for children who needed work done. I also believe there was a program for that work to be done. As for the baths, there might have been some children who needed that according to their home condition. I only remember in my class each child had a wash basin assigned to them and a toothbrush which we used every day. I actually thought it was a part of education. Many families had many children and very little in the way of minor
    luxuries of hot water or bath tubs, let alone my house did not have electric lights. We lived on Third St., now known as Crosstown Pkwy.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! It's one thing to read the dry data, but quite another to learn that each child had a washbasin and toothbrush for them to use at school. It would be interesting to know how long these programs lasted.