Almyra Reams (Class of 1928) Nationally Famous in 1940

KGH nurses would say “Of course she did” in response to this article about Almyra Reams. “She trained at the General, after all.”

Almyra grew up in Franklin, Tennessee, and entered training relatively late — about age 28.  Soon after graduation, Almyra went to Lubbock, Texas, where she was Superintendent of Nurses at the Lubbock Sanitarium.

After she left Lubbock, Almyra took a job at the Stabler Hospital in Greenville, Alabama, from which she retired in the 1950’s.

While working at Stabler Hospital, Almyra somehow became the primary charge nurse for quadruplets born nearly 200 miles northwest of Greenville in Walker County, Alabama.  The KGH graduate fashioned a make-shift incubator for the tiny infants.  Eventually, the infants were separated.  Thanks to modern neonatal medicine, we know that keeping the infants together was probably best for their health.

Almyra_Reams_Quads_Incubator_1940In February, 1940, one of the quadruplets died.  National newspapers reported the death, and Almyra was quoted.

Below is an article from The Daily Mountain Eagle, of Jasper, Alabama, published January 17, 2020, recounting the story of the Short quadruplets nursed by Almyra Reams.

Revered Nauvoo physician Dr. H.J. Sankey set off a media firestorm when he helped deliver four babies on the evening of Jan. 14, 1940.

Mrs. Clyde Short, 34, gave birth to Faith, Hope, Charity and Franklin. She and her husband, a coal miner and Works Progress administration worker, already had five children.

Their home in the Johnson community, two miles west of Nauvoo, was described as “destitute” in the Jasper Advertiser article announcing the births on Jan. 17.

The births caused quite a stir because multiple births were so rare. The Badgett quads, born in February 1939 in Texas, would become only the second set of quads to survive in the U.S.

Pediatrician Dr. Stewart H. Welch was brought in from Birmingham to ensure that the infants were receiving the best possible care at Walker County Hospital. Individual incubators were installed for the babies, who weighed about three pounds, and two nurses were assigned to devote all of their attention to the Short quads.

In time, the hospital began issuing bulletins twice a day to keep the public updated on the condition of the quads.

The hospital also prepared a special room with large glass doors so that the public could see the babies and the public could photograph them without endangering their health.

Their peers, the Badgetts, were still receiving about 500 visitors a week a their glassed-in nursery, according to a short article in the Feb. 19, LIFE magazine that announced the birth of the Short quads. The Badgetts had also been promised a home by the Galveston Chamber of Commerce if they remained in the city until they were 18.

The Short quads were already receiving endorsement offers of their own. Doctors, lawyers and an advisory committee were helping the family get their financial and legal affairs in order.

Just one week after their birth, sealed proposals were received from two evaporated milk companies. The advisory committee encouraged the family to sign with Carnation Milk Co., which offered a sum of money once the contract was finalized and further installments if the Shorts lived to age 4.

The company also agreed to furnish free milk for the five other Short children and offered to provide a free medical exam each month for all of the children.

Proposed contracts also came in from Loveman, Joseph & Loeb and Pizitz in Birmingham.

Sankey, who became a co-guardian, opened an account at First National Bank for the quads with a $1,000 check received from Houston, Texas. Families as far away as Oklahoma also started sending clothing and diapers.

A woman in Rochester, New York, sent a check to Franklin and a valuable necklace made of tortoise to the three girls.

When donations seemed slow, a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Short with the four babies was sold for 25 cents a copy.

The family’s most pressing need was housing, however.

The advisory committee voted to hire an architect to prepare preliminary sketches. Offers for appliances and free lumber were received.

In early February, more than 1,000 people filed past for a peek of the quads at Walker County Hospital.

Gov. Frank Dixon signed a proclamation declaring that March 8 and 9 would be set aside as days of celebration for the Short quads.

Then, on Feb. 23, tragedy struck. Hope Short died of bronchial pneumonia. A statement from Sankey and the medical team said that Hope had been the smallest of the quads but also the most healthy until she fell fatally ill.

In addition to being upsetting for the family and the community at large, the death of Hope also nullified the Carnation contract, which would have been worth approximately $35,000. Carnation did donate $5,000 to the family and agreed to supply milk for the children.

The family had no income coming in and were living in a rented house in Nauvoo. Land had been donated by J.W. Dodd but no further donations had materialized to help build a home.

Dodd eventually donated 12 lots to the family. A house was made available to them, though it was in need of repair.

The family moved into the home on May 1. It marked the first time that Faith, Charity and Franklin had left the hospital.

“They will return to circumstances not so very far removed from the log cabin with wide cracks in which they were born that cold January day. The room the babies will return to will be ceiled and painted but like the cabin the heat will be from a fireplace and the water drawn with a bucket from a well in back of the home,” the Advertiser reported on April 24.

The death of Hope changed everything.

“They are trying to make what money is left go as far as it will for the three babies. Before the death of Hope Short on Feb. 23, the picture was a bright one and fortune was about to become lavish. With the death of this one member of the quadruplets, the fickle public lost interest and it is rather a dismal picture that they face,” the Advertiser reporter wrote.

Sankey reported that the family had about $1,000 in the special account, which at one time had held as much as $7,000, and monthly expenses for care of the babies was estimated to be approximately $200 a month.

Source: https://mountaineagle.com/stories/january-1940-short-quadruplets-born-in-nauvoo,23653

The quadruplets’ father, Clyde Short, died almost exactly 16 years later in a mining rock slide.  Franklin Short became a Master Sergeant in the Army and died in 2004.

Almyra_Reams_Short_Quads_Life_Magazine_02-17-1940_pg26Source of above photo: Life Magazine, February 17, 1940, page 26.


Leave a Reply