“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Been doing a little local research on the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 (that actually lasted into 1920). Here are some interesting facts and information from local (NC) newspapers of the time.
One newspaper article stated that the city of Raleigh reported 288 people died in one month. The final worldwide toll was estimated at over 50 million people.
Another paper reported that so many people were dying in Raleigh that Oakwood Cemetery averaged 10 burials per day. Often there was no funeral service as ministers were made to keep their distance.
One 11-year-old boy, Frederick Farmer, died four days before Christmas and his dog came and laid on his grave every day until it died.
From the fall of 1918 to the spring of 1920, the flu killed 14,000 people in North Carolina – more than the state’s total casualties from World War I.
Wake County tried to combat the spread by calling off public gatherings – the first attempt at “social distancing”. Soon concerts, church services, schools, movie houses, and other public gatherings were being cancelled and businesses closed. After that were widespread calls for staying isolated, not shaking hands, covering coughs . . . and pleads for people to stop spitting in the streets.
The U.S. Public Health Service coined a new catchphrase for the pandemic: “Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases”. The government backed the saying with posters and newspaper illustrations under the headline, “Uncle Sam’s Advice on the Flu”.
Newspapers ran articles almost daily on how to combat the disease. These included “attaching cucumbers to your ankles”, “carrying potatoes in your pockets”, and “putting sulfur in your shoes”, all considered cures. The miracle medicine of the day was a new product called, “Vick’s VapoRub”. It was the toilet paper of its day, being bought out immediately after it hit the shelves for almost six straight months.
After the worst months in 1918, the flu came in waves, surging again in February 1920.
Raleigh High School was transformed into a makeshift hospital, but for whites only. Shaw University treated the city’s black population as segregation was still the order of the day.
Finally, editorials in newspapers across the state pleaded for compliance, particularly an essay published in the 1918 Robesonian, entitled, “Why in the World Don’t People Listen to Reason?”
So, are we willing to listen to reason and learn the lessons of history? Or would we just rather repeat it?
“Father, Help us to learn from the past as we look to the future. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”