In 1954, the younger brother of one of my first grade classmates was unfortunately infected with polio, which at the time was one of the world’s most troublesome childhood diseases. He was one of the 58,000 polio cases in the US that year. The disease could cause breathing problems and on rare cases, paralysis. At the time, there were all kinds of flyers showing kids being treated in iron lungs or wearing leg braces walking with crutches.
Funds were raised for polio research through the March of Dimes, which was initiated during the Great Depression by President Roosevelt since he suffered from the disease. It was thought even during the Depression, anyone could afford a thin dime. The contributions funded the successful work of Dr. Jonas Salk, who develop the polio vaccine.
Thanks to Dr. Salk’s efforts, the polio vaccine has essentially eradicated the disease from the face of the earth. I distinctly recall our first grade class traveling by school bus to Sidney to get our polio shots. The Shelby County Health department was located in the basement of the Courthouse in Sidney under the large cement stairs heading up to the court rooms.
The area was cold, dark and dank, elevating our fears even more beyond being scared about the polio shot. In the line ahead of me, several classmates, both boys and girls, started crying when given the shot, a situation I was bound and determined to avoid. And to make matters worse, the bus was parked waiting for us across the courthouse square at the site of the County jail. To no surprise, someone screamed when they thought they saw a prisoner starring down through a barred window in the jail!
That polio shot hurt like heck and to this day, I have a fear of shots of all kinds. Just ask my wife, as recently we received the shingles shot. I literally jerked my arm spontaneously even though the nurse had only used a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to clean the area where the shot was to be administered! Still the shot was much worse, while my wife and the nurse both got a huge chuckle at my expense.
As youngsters growing up in the 50’s, we had to have seemingly never-ending vaccinations beyond polio, such as small pox, chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, whopping cough, hepatitis B, influenza, etc, etc. Almost every kid back then has a severe scar on their left upper arm as evidence of the many vaccinations.
These days, some parents are opting out of these vaccinations because of a fear their child could develop autism or other such serious disorders. The son of a friend of ours became a paraplegic some time after receiving his vaccinations at a young age and to this day, his mother swears the vaccinations and/or tainted well water were the culprits. Because more parents today are opting out of vaccinations for their children, diseases that had literally disappeared for generations are resurfacing. For example, measles cases across the United States likely broke a record for 2019 as indicated in the chart below.
Situations like this and many other considerations make raising children today very complicated. Parents back in the 1950’s no doubt were concerned with our well-being, but at the same time, seemed to kinda let us do our own thing and accepted the consequences. This short video accurately describes the times back then. Those times were definitely fun and memorable.
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