I never remember entire neighborhoods being quarantined as a boy but I do recall a couple of occasions when specific homes were quarantined. When I was a boy during the ’40s and ’50s the big scares were polio and scarlet fever. There were all the other infectious diseases such as mumps, chicken pox and measles. We all assumed we would catch the last three at some point because all our moms told us we would. It was always a bit scary to think about catching something that seemed mysterious to a small child but our moms didn’t act overly concerned about those three.
When learned someone had measles, mumps or chicken pox we would stay away mostly but lots of moms seem to think it was best if we got it over with. They would not do it when we were under about 6. But of course when we started school it was only a matter of time before we contracted all three. They were worried about us catching them when we were too little but my memory is they all thought it more or less better to get them over with during the first two or three years of school. The mom theory was that if you got them when you were past ten it could be more serious. I suppose the pediatricians had passed the along to them. I got all three and so did my child bride. I also through in yellow jaundice about the second grade which I remember as being much worse than the usual three. The other three I just remember being sick but not awful. The chicken pox was a hassle because mom was constantly harping about not scratching those really itchy sores. She said I would be scarred for life.
We were all vaccinated for small pox. That circle scar on our shoulders was a mark of maturity and bravery for all us young folks. But scars from chicken pox just proved you didn’t have the moral courage to resist the temptation to scratch. Yep, that is my memory of my mom’s view of it–if you scratched you were a sissy. The yellow jaundice I had was pretty debilitating, high fever and bad stomach. All I could hold down was jello and that is why to this day I can’t stand the stuff, ever to look at it.
There was a case of scarlet fever in the neighborhood when I was about 9/10. Mom warned us about it and strictly instructed us to not go near the house. It was quarantined. She explained of course that no one could go in or out until the scarlet fever was gone. Naturally being a kid me and my best bud couldn’t wait to see the place and see what a “quarantine” looked like. I distinctly recall riding our bikes around the neighborhood until we find it. Sure enough there was some kind of sign on the front door. We just rode back and forth past it several times but kept our distance. Mom after all had made it sound pretty darn scary.
The real enchilada of disease scares was polio. For some reason our moms believed it was worst in the summer time and when kids were tired. Most of our moms made us come in during the heat of those Texas summers to nap and or rest for a while. I thought that was about the biggest bummer you could imagine. They had all those frightening shorts at the movie houses between films collecting money for the March of Dimes and showing the kids in those iron lungs. It scared me seeing those. Then bam–1954 if memory serves Dr. Salk and the vaccine. We got our vaccine shots at school. I have no idea who paid for those. The State I suppose. They lined us up class by class in the cafeteria for the shots. Of course the challenge was to be brave because it wan in injection with a big needle. The guys couldn’t flinch in front of the girls. That would not do. Some cratered anyway. It wasn’t terrible is my memory, I just looked away and felt that whammo sting.
I firmly believe that we will all get through this too. We might have to be a little braver than we like and there may be some pain but I guarantee there will be a next generation.
God Bless All, olcranky