The headline and accompanying photos and story in the June 15, 1951 edition of The Birmingham News told quite the story.
|(From left to right) Triplets Jeanette, Lynette and Annette celebrated their 60th birthday with a visit to UAB and a tour of the new Women & Infants Center. The tour was a gift from their niece, Jo Ann Canada, a patient care tech in the Trauma Burn Intensive Care Unit.|
There was 31-year-old Sidney J. Hardin, gripping two cigars between his teeth and holding another between his fingers as he tried to strike a match to light them. Beside him is another photo of three babies in an incubator under the headline “1-2-3-gee! It’s a three-ply bundle of sugar and spice.”
Sidney and Clara Hardin were the talk of Birmingham that summer. Clara gave birth to Annette, Lynette and Jeanette in what is believed to have been the first instance of triplets born at old Jefferson-Hillman Hospital on what is now the campus of UAB. Sixty years, one week and one day after the triplets were born, they were together in UAB Hospital’s new Women & Infants Center celebrating their birth with a tour of the 1-year-old facility. The tour was a gift from their niece Jo Ann Canada, a patient care tech in the Trauma Burn Intensive Care Unit.
“I wanted to do something for their 60th birthday that they would never forget,” Canada says. “I thought bringing them here where it all started and giving them an opportunity to see the new Women & Infants Center together would be fun.”
Canada set up a tour with Freda Centor, advanced nursing coordinator in Women & Infants Services. Centor says when she received the email from Canada, she was delighted UAB could be a part of the trio’s 60th birthday present.
“It’s exciting that Jo Ann thought about doing this for her aunts, and that they were so thrilled about coming back,” Centor says. “I think they are impressed with what UAB has done with its Women & Infants Center and excited to come back to their birthplace.”
The triplets, who were naturally conceived, were a big deal after their birth 60 summers ago. The Pep Milk company furnished their milk for one year, and Birmingham Linen furnished their diapers. Gerber Baby Food also gave the family food for the three babies.
It was a good thing, too, considering that Annette, Lynette and Jeanette were children Nos. 6, 7 and 8 for the Hardins; when the triplets were born, they finally evened up the household at four boys and four girls apiece. The Hardins would later add two more children to their family for a total of 10.
The newspaper account of the triplets’ birth says the nurse first notified Hardin he had twins only to come out an instant later and up the number to three. The newspaper never mentioned the girls’ names because they weren’t immediately named. In fact, they were never given middle names. “It was hard enough to come up with three first names,” Annette says.
They were the first sets of multiples to be born in the family, and they all arrived healthy, weighing between 1.5 and 3.5 pounds.
It wasn’t until later that there was some concern about Jeanette. She wasn’t gaining weight like the other two shortly after they went home. When they brought her back to the doctor, it wasn’t long before everyone learned why.
“Lynette and I were stealing her bottles and drinking them,” says Annette. “When they figured that out, they had to separate us from Jeanette.”
Lynette says she and Jeanette — who resemble each other very closely — have always been like twins. They used to have to remind their husbands which one was which when they were together because they looked so similar, especially from behind, she says.
“Annette and I are very similar in a lot of ways,” Lynette says. “Annette never wanted to dress like us — never.”
“Do you blame her,” Canada chimes in.
Canada’s mother, Linda Faye, was the older sister of the 10 children. Canada grew up in Texas and when they made their trips back to Birmingham, she remembers sitting in the back of the car planning on which aunt she was going to visit first.
“My daddy would say, ‘You’re going to your grandma’s first,’ and I’d say, ‘No, I want to go to Annette’s first’ or Lynette’s or Jeanette’s. I went to Annette’s most because she had three girls. I loved going to Aunt Lynette’s because she always cooked. And Aunt Jeanette would let me get away with anything. She was one of those aunts that you never got in trouble with for everything. They’re just my favorites.”
All of the triplets have great memories of their youth. Jeanette remembers the three of them helping their daddy pick cotton and watermelons in the field on their farm.
“We were little kids, probably around 4, and not really much help,” Jeanette says. “I remember daddy giving us a toe sack and all three of us would pick cotton and put it in the toe sack. Our daddy used to put us on top of a big truck where the cotton bailer was, and we rode on that back to the barn.”
The triplets, who now live in Blount County within 20 miles of each other, also wound up with big families of their own.
Annette had three daughters and now has seven grandkids and four great grandkids. Jeanette has one son, three grandchildren and one great grandson. Lynette has three children, five granddaughters and one grandson. And one family tradition continues: There are three sets of twins among the group, too. The oldest grandson has twin girls and twin grandsons, and the youngest grandson has twin sons.
Each of the triplets was impressed with the Women & Infants Center. Jeanette’s oldest granddaughter had her baby there this past year.
“I just wish I had this as an option 41 years ago with my child,” Annette says. “This place is just wonderful. I’ve got grandchildren old enough to have children of their own, so I’m going to let them know about this place.”
Canada says her aunts have done so much for her throughout her life that she’s happy to have had the opportunity to give her aunts a gift they won’t forget.
“Growing up in this family was just awesome and amazing,” Canada says. “You never went without anything. It didn’t matter if it was the last dollar in their pocket. If you needed something you were going to get it. And they’re still that way today.”