Columns

Richard’s Almanac: Remembering an epidemic

“Did you ever have anything like this happen when you were a kid, Pop Pop?”

That was a question I was asked by one of my grandchildren last week, as their daily lives were totally interrupted by various government strategies and tactics put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus.

I had to think back over the past seven and a half decades and bring to mind events that shattered the safe and comfortable world children should have. Of course there were cataclysmic events that had everyone concerned and talking, but they never lasted this long and covered almost the whole globe.

About the only thing that comes close in my experience was the polio epidemic. I don’t know if they called it an epidemic, but we were certainly aware of this crippling disease in the early 1950s.

There always seemed to be a student or two who came down with it in my school. It usually occurred during the summer when kids went to camp or on vacation.

Some thought it might have come from a bug bite; others thought perhaps from swimming in dirty water. Nobody knew.

Of course back then there was no vaccine, so if someone in your class came down with it, the only choice was to get a gamma globulin shot. The talk among the young students was that the needle was a couple of feet long and stayed in for about a half hour.

These exaggerations were quite the talk in my 2nd and 3rd grade classes. But that’s the medicine we had on the front lines at that time. I’m talking 1951-53.

I remember my mother used to work for the “March of Dimes” to raise funds for research. That’s what they did — literally ask for dimes to help the scientists.

It must have been a terrible and worrisome time for parents of young children. You never knew if your child would be stricken. I had two friends at the time who came down with polio and survived, but with permanent limps.

Other victims were confined to iron lungs and some died. But as kids we never worried that much. Worrying was for adults, not kids. Our job was to have fun.

And then I believe that it was in 1955 or 1956, Dr. Jonas Salk came up with a vaccine. The “Salk vaccine” became the weapon against this terrible virus.

All over the country children lined up in schools for their polio shots.
After a while the disease just about disappeared. Dr. Albert Sabin developed an oral vaccine that is now part of the protocol for children’s vaccinations.

I hope the children of today are not too worried about the current virus.

Those who must worry are the old folks. Like me. The seniors. So stay indoors.

I’ve been following that advice and just began a major painting project in a room where I want to install crown molding. The lumber yard delivered the wood right to the house. And I’m using paint that I had left over from another project.

I want to put the molding up first and I have to mitre the inside corners. I spent all Saturday afternoon trying to get the right cut on the corners. No luck. Even after watching numerous YouTube videos.

In the past, when I had such a project, I’d just walk across the road and seek the wisdom of master builder Jack Ketcham. Jack could do anything concerning any of the building trades. But Jack’s gone now and I’m on my own.

I’ll somehow get those inside corners done properly.