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Wed Feb 22, 2012, 09:26 AM

I just watched this PBS Special on line about the 1918 influenza outbreak....

As I was watching this particular American Experience, I started to think about my grand parents on both sides. My dad's parents were Polish, born here and lived in Cleveland. My mom's parents were split between Irish and German, both born here and lived in small towns in Coal Country, PA.

They were all teenagers or adults by the time the flu outbreak hit. My Grandfather on my mother's side was a Lt. in Perishing’s Army, as he called it.

Watching this episode of AE made me think about my Grandparents. They were all a little stand offish, not known for hugging once we were walking.

I wonder if that horrible experience of watching people around you dying every day, passing on quickly and in droves, pushed the hugs and kisses so deep inside that they couldn't bring them out even decades later.

I wonder if they were afraid of touching, hugging, being flu near to anyone ever again.

My grandfather was a dentist and he wore a mask whenever he was working on a patient long before the modern dentists’ donned

The question I have for my fellow boomers is did your grandparents act that way as well. I seem to remember all the people born around the turn of the century till 1910 or so were not at all demonstrative.

Just was thinking as I sit in a semi-isolated room in the hospital.

BTW, here is a link to the show. They have hundreds of on line episodes on PBS.org.


http://video.pbs.org/video/1378322117

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Reply I just watched this PBS Special on line about the 1918 influenza outbreak.... (Original post)
WCGreen Feb 2012 OP
FarCenter Feb 2012 #1
eShirl Feb 2012 #2
madokie Feb 2012 #3
WCGreen Feb 2012 #6
matmar Feb 2012 #7
madokie Feb 2012 #21
Bruce Wayne Feb 2012 #23
blue neen Feb 2012 #4
WCGreen Feb 2012 #5
enough Feb 2012 #8
WCGreen Feb 2012 #9
Loudmxr Feb 2012 #10
frazzled Feb 2012 #11
Javaman Feb 2012 #12
laundry_queen Feb 2012 #14
Javaman Feb 2012 #19
Mojorabbit Feb 2012 #31
JoDog Feb 2012 #17
kaiden Feb 2012 #29
laundry_queen Feb 2012 #13
lunasun Feb 2012 #15
WCGreen Feb 2012 #16
pansypoo53219 Feb 2012 #18
renate Feb 2012 #20
WCGreen Feb 2012 #24
renate Feb 2012 #27
WCGreen Feb 2012 #34
renate Feb 2012 #35
frogmarch Feb 2012 #22
WCGreen Feb 2012 #25
frogmarch Feb 2012 #28
WCGreen Feb 2012 #33
Lydia Leftcoast Feb 2012 #26
TuxedoKat Feb 2012 #30
treestar Feb 2012 #32
mohinoaklawnillinois Feb 2012 #36

Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 09:33 AM

1. People used to die of many infectious diseases and suffer from parasites like lice

 

Until penicillan and DDT, touching or being close to people was a risky proposition.

It's still a poor idea as antibiotic-resistant bacteria, e.g. tuberculosis, and insecticide-resistant bugs, e.g. bedbugs, are making a comeback.

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 09:34 AM

2. My grandmother's oldest almost died of that flu as an infant.

(They had a casket for him and everything, but he pulled through and is still alive.)
She was active in the community all her life, and was so generous with her wonderful hugs that it became kind of a running theme as loads of people took turns to speak at her funeral.

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 09:36 AM

3. The only grand parent I remember was my mothers mother

and she would give us a hug when a hug was warranted. Grandparents on my fathers side died of old age long before I was born. My dads dad, Granddad for me, fought in the civil war as a union soldier even though his family were slave owners and lived in Georgia. One of my brothers and two of my sis's went to visit the plantation that my great grandparents owned. parts of the old plantation is or was still there even after all these years. I guess you could say it is a testament to the good work of the Slaves. As the story goes the slaves that my great grand parents had mostly stayed on with my family and they all took our name which isn't a common name either. Which is an Honor to me and my family today.

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Response to madokie (Reply #3)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 09:57 AM

6. my Great Great Grandfather was in the Union Army....

My Coal Country Grandfather traced his lineage back to the late 1600's. His, how ever many greats back, grandmother came over from Ireland as an indentured servant.

Somehow I don't think the DAR were breaking down the door of my Catholic Irish family to be members in their "society".

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Response to madokie (Reply #3)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 09:57 AM

7. Interesting.....

 

He was a Union soldier although they were slave owners......Have you dug into your family history any deeper? Why would they have fought against their own best interest? I'm reading "A Peoples History of the Civil War" and it's fascinating to read how the wealthy slave owning class in the South got poor non-slave owners to sacrifice themselves for their interests...

Some things never change. Just the definitions are different.

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Response to matmar (Reply #7)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 12:59 PM

21. they as a family had already pretty much told the slaves they were workers

and if they wanted to stay on for whatever they paid they were welcome. Most did stay.
We've traced our family on my fathers side from early 1700 emigrating here from england
My mothers family came from western germany, called black dutch back then. As far as we could trace on moms side was my paternal great great grandfather who was a pirate on the high seas, never could find anything that went further back from him.

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Response to matmar (Reply #7)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 01:46 PM

23. History is pretty complicated.

There were lots of people in slave states, including slave owners, who supported the Union. In Texas, which was one of the strongest pro-Secesh states, one of the biggest slaveholders vehemently opposed secession--this was Sam Houston, a man who had already spent time being a president of a country outside the Union. He knew how predatory certain British and French commercial interests could be.

If there had been any doubt, everyone got a reminder when French bankers decided to repo the entire nation of Mexico the second the Union was distracted by insurrection.

It might help to keep in mind that most slaveowners were not hard-core ideological racists willing to do anything and everything just to support the principle of slave-owning. Rather, they were ordinary businessmen who happened to be morally misguided and economically foolish enough to try turning a profit on a cash crop business. Even if they felt like they needed to have slaves, that didn't mean they were going to automatically going to commit treason against their country for the sake of it.

I love coffee, and I mean really love coffee, but if they outlawed it tomorrow, I wouldn't go putting on a gray uniform to get it. This is a slightly flawed analogy because when everyone was picking sides in the war in 1861, virtually no one in the North had any plan or desire to threaten slavery. Lincoln said outright that he intended to leave slavery alone in the states where it existed. So no slavewhipping cotton man had any justification for the great treason.

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 09:48 AM

4. My grampap almost died from that flu epidemic.

His little brother and older sister did die.

His sister knew she was going to die, even though she was only 6. She and grampap were in the same sickbed, and she gave him her favorite toy, a little wagon, before she passed.

My grandfather never got over that. His sister's name was Vivian. She was a beautiful child, inside and out.

This also was in the Coal Country of Pennsylvania. My great-grandfather was a foreman in the mines who emigrated here from Sweden.

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Response to blue neen (Reply #4)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 09:51 AM

5. How sad but how sweet that he kept Vivian with him....

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 09:59 AM

8. My grandmother's true love died in the 1918 flu before they could marry.

She was very young. Thereafter she married the dashing, handsome and very straight-laced older man who became my grandfather. I never met him because he died before I was born.

Whenever I think of the 1918 flu, I think of the mysteries of fate, chance, luck, randomness, or whatever you want to call it. Without the flu she would have married her beloved. And my mother, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my children, and I myself, would never have been born.

She talked about it often.

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Response to enough (Reply #8)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 10:14 AM

9. Yes, my Polish Grand mother talked about her brother dying from the flu...

But he got it over in France...

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 10:19 AM

10. That flu saved my father's life.

He was in the Navy and was about to ship out to the War Zone.

The ship got quarenteened from September 1918 till February 1919.

He missed WWI.

Therefore I am here.

Hi Daddy!

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 10:29 AM

11. "Spanish Flu" was the subject of the penultimate Downton Abbey

episode this season, hitting the upstairs and downstairs folk with no discrimination. It seems as if people at that time really couldn't get a break: the Great War took so many lives and affected so many families, and then, bam, they got hit with a massive influenza epidemic that tore apart families even further.

But no, in my personal experience, I don't recall my grandparents (born in the late 1890s) being standoffish or non-demonstrative with hugs at all. I can recall my paternal grandfather always sitting us on his knees as small children, and then doing that awful thing that grandparents do--blowing into your belly with a loud sound. And I recall the loving hugs from my maternal grandmother.

Perhaps it's that all my relatives were Eastern European immigrants, peasants really. It's a fairly touchy, feely group.

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 10:35 AM

12. Thanks for the link. I'm currently reading a book on viral...

diseases, their origins and their effects.

What is usually not said about the 1918 "Spanish flu" is many of the people who died didn't die of the flu directly.

Many surcomed to bacterial infections later on.

This is why current "epidemics" are quickly dealt with for the most part.

However, the CDC and other world agencies are constantly watching the N1H1 virus to see if it's combinds with the N5H1 virus.

That is the biggest worry at the moment.

And on top of all that, the flu virus is constantly evolving.

One day it will hit us hard again. It's not a matter of if.

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Response to Javaman (Reply #12)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 10:49 AM

14. Totally a matter of 'when'.

And it will probably be a flu virus. Many scientist theorize, however, that changes that make most viruses (? is that the plural?) more virulent also make them less deadly. They watched it happen with Ebola. Still, it's not something we can rely on. The worst case scenario would be a virus that was both virulent and deadly.

I watched the movie 'Contagion' with my daughter (teenager) and it was interesting to see what a scenario like that *may* look like. (An aside, Matt Damon was horrible in it! I love Matt Damon, hated him in this movie...) Of course we were both so grossed out at the end when you find out how patient 0 gets it. Just one asshole not washing his hands. You just never know. Humans are so overcrowded now, I do believe it's just a matter of time before something like this happens, sadly.

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Response to laundry_queen (Reply #14)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 11:15 AM

19. During flu season, I tell my office mates how to avoid getting the flu...

wash your hands and don't touch your face.

do they listen? no.

They get sick.

I haven't had the flu for over 15 years ever since I clued into that.

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Response to laundry_queen (Reply #14)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 03:51 PM

31. I read this yesterday

I follow H5N1 closely and there is yet another possible cluster in Indonesia this week. It seems in this experiment it spread without losing its virulence.
http://www.recombinomics.com/News/02211201/H5N1_Ferrets_40.html
http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/bird-flu-pandemic-virus-mutates-researchers-new-information-deadly-health-15745084

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Response to Javaman (Reply #12)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 11:07 AM

17. That was something the aforementioned "Downton Abbey" got right

It showed how people who managed to get through the initial virus and improved frequently got worse again, succumbing to a secondary infection or cause. This was one of the reasons why the 1918 pandemic killed many young and healthy people (the folks who usually have the best chance of surviving such sickness). Often, the virus would send a healthy immune system into complete overdrive, flooding the lungs with fluid so the victim, in effect, drowned.

(spoiler alert) "Downton" shows a young character dying in this way--at first ill but not dangerously so, then better, then struggling for air before the end.

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Response to JoDog (Reply #17)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 03:10 PM

29. That's called a cytokene storm. And the Spanish Flu did mostly kill younger folks

whose immune systems were stronger and prone to "overreact."

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 10:42 AM

13. Interesting. I watched a show about it once too

and asked my mom about my grandfather and his family (my grandfather was the youngest, born in 1909) and she didn't remember any stories about that particular flu. All my grandfather's siblings were alive so maybe they managed to avoid it (they were in a remote area). My grandfather was very demonstrative with his affection (think wet kisses on each cheek - oh horror as a young kid, lol) as was all of his family so perhaps they never caught it or they never got very sick. I have no idea. I wish I'd have asked him before he died in December (yes, at 102 yrs old). You never get that second chance...
It is a fascinating topic though.

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 10:50 AM

15. We lived in a big city and they told me about the caskets would be out lining the streets somedays

They talked about it and the next wave was polio in the area. My uncle had that.
1918 was bad I guess in the cities.
Influenza was a regular grim reaper before antibiotics they said anyway but this 1918 was a particular fast killer .

Seems they just went from that into the flapper age booze and cigs or cigars Have a photo of my grandparents both smoking cigars and playing poker-my grandmother is dressed as a man but another person told me his family has those kind of posed photos too from that prohibition era.(FYI it was Chicago)

Alittle bit o party before the next hit

They all lived very long lives( late 80's to mid 90's) survivors of WW1,the plague, violence during pro,then the depression -my one grandmother still had rationing coins from either the depression or WWII which they saw too.

The depression was not so bad for one side of the family -they were all distrusting of banks and the rising stock markets and never got sucked in as many around them did. The mattresses were still full after the crash

I tell my daughter about the rationing coins and she cant beleive there wasn't enough sugar etc. for limitless use.


I was partially raised by my great aunt so between her and my grandmother I got an idea of some of those times and know I am lucky to be a boomer ....well until the soylent green plan kicks in,... but they all talked as survivors not with pain or grief for those times. My uncle would show off his polio leg - what it did to him and how he tried to hide it to get in to WWll army with everyone else he knew( along with his age).

Impart any history you can on any younger generations- in my opinion if it is not a test question it is not part of school lessons today

Why do you think the Asians bow with clasped hands instead of a handshake?

I think the early generations were just this way and I still do not like all the hugging and kissing non- family members want to inflict on me when greeting or parting after a get together.

So maybe I got raised that way and am unaware although nonimmediate family folks have already commented I am not the touchy feelie type......But with intimate family at home- we are just big hugabears with smoochies to all even our pets!!!

Also I do have one aunt that is afraid of children claiming they carry toomany germs for her at her age to be around ! I was a little insulted when bringing a baby around she really wouldnt hug or hold also if we travel overseas she will not see us for like a year but maybe that is part of her own survival plan .

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Response to lunasun (Reply #15)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 10:56 AM

16. My Penn grandparents both lived into their late 80's....

By grandfather was born in 1890 and grandmother in 1894. I remember going to her sister house and was shocked that they still had an outhouse.... That was in the 60's...

I think back on how primitve it was to have just three channels. But we thought we had it made.

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 11:09 AM

18. my paternal grandparents were born in 1918.

i asked my grandpa about it after i saw that doc. he had an uncle, probably the dr in the family, his uncle remembered lots of coffins.

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 12:31 PM

20. thanks, and hugs, to everybody who's posted their stories here

This thread is fascinating--even more so than I would have expected it to be nearly 100 years after the outbreak. (The story about Vivian and the little truck... heartbreaking. But how lovely that she's remembered all these years later, and that her sweetness is now known by all of us strangers.)

But WCG--what are you doing in a semi-isolated room in the hospital? Extra big to you!

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Response to renate (Reply #20)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 02:32 PM

24. Lung infection....

Not really serious but concerned. When I get this way, they need to do IV Anti biotics.

Then they send me home with a pic line so I can recover at home....

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Response to WCGreen (Reply #24)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 02:57 PM

27. oh dear...

I'm glad you're getting the care you need. I hope you get home and get well soon!

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Response to renate (Reply #27)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 05:14 PM

34. They just put a pic in so I can get the Anti biotics right to the infection...

That also means my stay will be brief.

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Response to WCGreen (Reply #34)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 05:19 PM

35. good news!

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 01:13 PM

22. My grandmother died from it in 1918,

when she was in her early 30s, leaving behind my grandfather and their three kids: my dad, who was 12, and his two younger brothers. They lived in St. Louis, MO.

I didn't know about it until recently, when I started researching my family tree.

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Response to frogmarch (Reply #22)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 02:35 PM

25. If you get a chance to view the show...

It's really something.

In October of 1918, 195,000 people died; the most ever in US History. More people died from the Spanish Flu than all US wars combined.

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Response to WCGreen (Reply #25)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 03:02 PM

28. Thanks for the headsup. I will

watch it.

Because of one doctor's actions, St. Louis wasn't hit as bad as most other places.

snip: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2009/04/st_louis_response_to_spanish_influenza_of_1918_saved_thousands_of_lives.php

Over at stltoday.com, reporter Tim O'Neil has the interesting tale of how a local doctor managed to save thousands of lives in St. Louis during the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918 that claimed tens of millions of lives worldwide.

Dr. Max C. Starkloff, the city health commissioner back then, convinced Mayor Henry Kiel to close all schools, churches, theaters and dance halls following the first evidence of the flu in St. Louis. Starkloff's decision didn't win him many friends among the business and religious community, at least not initially.

Per the stltoday.com article:
Starkloff's strategy was "social distancing," the simple practice of keeping people away from one another. During the brief but deadly sweep of the flu that fall, the death rate in St. Louis was 2.8 per 1,000 residents, lowest among the nation's major cities. The rate was 8.0 in Pittsburgh, 7.6 in San Francisco and 7.1 in Kansas City.

Businessmen whose sales plunged beseeched City Hall to loosen the rules. Catholic Archbishop (later Cardinal) John J. Glennon urged Starkloff to reopen the churches. But the son of a German-born doctor held firm and had the trust of Mayor Kiel, who told Starkloff, "I don't want anyone to die. Therefore, I shall support you."

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Response to frogmarch (Reply #28)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 04:35 PM

33. Cool...

I like that the people in charge at the local level were able to try different solutions. Just think about how many people over the years this simple idea were saved.

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 02:40 PM

26. My father and his siblings survived it

but were too young to have any strong memories.

My maternal grandparents were recently married and moved out to a small town in North Dakota so that my grandfather could take a teaching job. A young woman who had just graduated from college also arrived at the same time to take a job, but she died of the flu a couple of months later.

One day some people noticed that a certain farm family had not been in church for two weeks. (This would have been unusual in small town North Dakota in 1918.) Some of the other members of the church went out to investigate and found the parents and three children all dead.

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 03:17 PM

30. Hmmm

I wish I'd asked my grandmother (born 1909) more about this, while she was still here. Everyone survived in her immediate family (10 kids, she was the 6th born). She lived on a farm though, much more isolated than city people, so less chance to get the flu. She was always warm and demonstrative with us. My grandfather on the other side, also born in 1909, was more standoffish, but I think that was more a generational thing. One time I surprised him when I was a teen by giving him a hug and a kiss. I later heard that he was surprised and liked that I did that.

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 04:00 PM

32. Very good point

I never thought of that. The younger generation than mine seems much more into hugging - it's spread up to my generation OK, but the older generation never did that. It's very interesting that could be a factor. Communicable diseases were often deadly and seem to be fading into the past, fortunately.

I noticed the "I love you" thing too, everyone says it now, whereas when I was young, parents and kids did not say it - there's been a cultural shift there to be more verbally demonstrative too. Even your friends say "I love you" now!

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Response to WCGreen (Original post)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 05:45 PM

36. I had an uncle who had the Spanish flu and survived.

He survived and lived until 1960 but he was instutionalized after his bout with it. Desmond was the only sibling of my father's to come down with the flu. At the time of the outbreak there were six children in the house, my father being the youngest, but Uncle Desmond was the only one to come down with it.

I never met him but I do remember going to his funeral. My uncles and my father would take turns taking my Grandmother out to see him every week, until she died in 1958.

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