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Post-Polio Summer

February 6, 2015

One of the reasons I decided to take on the Sleeper Ave. project was at the urging of my kids, both in their mid-20s, who have no idea what life was like when their father was growing up.

The terror of polio is something, thank goodness, they never had to live through. Here are some of the things people who do remember that time said:

Karen:

I remember it vividly! I was a test kid too.

Alan:

I remember the advent of the Salk vaccine vividly. It was like there was a great sigh across the country and it seemed that almost in a flash polio was history. Very timely given the current politicization of the issue. Paul Rand should be thoroughly ashamed.

Charles:

I loved this reminiscence. You might also check out Philip Roth’s novel entitled “Nemesis.” It chronicles the polio outbreak experience in New Jersey during which time Jews, Italian delis and a host of others were blamed and ostracized for the onset of the epidemic. Great read.

Thanks, Charles. I read “Nemesis” a few years ago, and I agree that it captured the times quite well, indeed.

Elizabeth:

I had no idea about the “Jew vaccine” part… but all of the other stuff I remember very well. And interestingly enough, I’m married to someone who contracted polio in the 1950s. It mainly affected the muscles in his back, which remain stiff/highly problematic to this day. As a kid/teenager they had him do loads of swimming and gymnastics to help, which it did. If you didn’t know what happened, you’d never notice, but if you know it, it’s very obvious.

John, commenting on “The Lord of Toads”:

By the time 1953 arrived I was a sophomore in Baylor, and after the storm subsided a bunch of us were drawn by the escalating evidences of destruction to downtown. I ended up atop the remains of the R.T. Dennis building in a futile effort to break through to the interior of the pile — beneath which, I later learned, were my philosophy professor and his wife, crushed in their flattened car. As to the deceased horny toad, I’m so sorry for your loss. Thanks so much for this truly wonderful undertaking.

Larry:

Today’s measles outbreak points out that stupidity and ignorance in relation to inoculation are still very much a possibility–only now it is blamed as a cause for autism.

Paula:

My┬áparents lived through and remembered the scourge of polio epidemics in their childhoods and were eager to protect their children. I never heard them called “Jew Vaccines” but I grew up in Denver, not Waco. My parents wouldn’t have cared who created them, just as long as we were protected. I’m afraid parents today do not remember a measles outbreak. I can tell you as someone who had them in 1956, it was a miserable disease. I was sick, in bed, in a dark room for at least a week . I was one of the lucky ones though, because I did not suffer from any lasting complications. If you ever get a chance to visit an old cemetary in any town in Colorado, notice the number of tombstones belonging to children in 1904. Those kids died of a diptheria outbreak that devistated whole families that year. So sad, and thankfully now, totally preventable.

Susanne:

I do remember the polio ” scare”. I have a friend that spent every summer in the hospital. She had to have surgery every year. I agree..that iron lung scared the crap out of me!!!!

Miriam:

What? Now I want to know more! As usual, the images are amazing and the story thought-provoking. Thank you.