Here it comes again!

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Allentown, November 20, 1918: “The city is on the verge of a recurrence of the influenza epidemic.”

Why? “The carelessness of a few.”

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Allentown shut down for two weeks.

It has been open now for two weeks.

And the Flu is back in an “extremely serious” way.

Lack of social distancing. Lax quarantining.

The disease has not been respected seriously enough.

And now Allentown must consider shutting down again.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

November 15, 1918: “Ding, dong, the witch is dead.” Not

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The war is over. Like the dread influenza epidemic seemingly
it has run its course, and is no more.”
Morning Call, November 15, 1918

There is nothing like an Armistice after a four-year war to presage a return to normalcy.

To the way it was.

Time to open up again.

And after a two-month siege with the Flu as well.

Two great converging battles simultaneously won.

“Ding, dong, the witch is dead.”

For a short period of time after the Armistice — the period from November 11 to December 1, 1918 — the Morning Call records the signs of Allentown and surrounding areas opening up again: schools open, temporary satellite hospitals close, postponed meetings are rescheduled, medicines now tout their efficacy for the lingering post-Flu weakness rather than as preventatives or therapeutics.

One touching example. Local art, community creativity sprouts again: “Jay Wellington resumed practice on his local talent play ‘Three Cheers’ on Friday evening at the Y.M.C. A. after an interruption of about six weeks made necessary by the influenza epidemic.” When the thespians are out, we’ve turned a corner!

Allentown dusts off the “All Clear” siren.

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But not so fast!

Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

Macungie: “Notwithstanding the raising of the ban against opening public places throughout most of our state, there are still numerous cases of influenza in this community.

Northampton: “It is reported that influenza is again gaining a foothold in the borough. The epidemic was practically stamped out when the quarantine was lifted.”

East Texas: “Influenza is prevalent at East Texas. . . . There is scarcely a home that does not have members down with the disease.”

Emaus: “From all indications the influenza cases are again on the increase in this borough, as many as 200 children have been absent from school in one day.”

Hellertown: “It was hoped that the influenza would give our town the cold shoulder, but nothing so fortunate is happening. Since the reopening of the schools the disease has broken out with a vengeance among the school children.”

In the same boat, Allentown, always restless under restriction, quickly needed to go back to the drawing board.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”

Spanish flu more deadly than World War I — much more

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Gadfly has been reading through the Morning Call in the post Armistice period — November 11 – December 1, 1918 — looking for signs of a second wave like we are starting to talk seriously about now. Some interesting info on that will be coming soon.

But this article caught Gadfly’s attention.

Around 58,000 died in the interminable Vietnam War, and we are now approaching 100,000 deaths in the several months of the coronavirus war.

Same with the Spanish Flu. More people dying at home than in the war.

Our deaths at the present moment are larger than the total number of American casualties in World War I and 4 x greater than the number of deaths.

Something to think about.

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“Good, big-hearted men” take care of children displaced by the Spanish Flu

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“Obey the laws, and wear the gauze;
Protect your jaws from septic paws.”
popular jingle, 1918

Gadfly’s used to washing his hands.

He’s spent a lot of time in research libraries digging through old dusty books and files.

So he’s enjoying his saunter through the 1918 Morning Call files on the Spanish Influenza pandemic.

He’s now read from mid-September when the Call announced that the Flu had “arrived” in America to the Armistice ending World War I, November 11.

It’s a shame Gadfly does not have access at this time to the Bethlehem papers. That might be of more interest to us. The Morning Call seemingly had “correspondents” many places — even such places now unfamiliar to him as Lynnville, Yoder’s, Zion Hill, Ashfield — but virtually no news from Bethlehem.

Gadfly’s been on the lookout for news that gives us some perspective on our current situation. In the last post, for instance, we see the restiveness and revolt against lock-downs that we are now experiencing. Late October crossing into November was a  weird time in the Flu history. The same day that Harrisburg was observing a day of prayer for the passing of the disease, the Palmerton headline was “Three daughters from the same family die.” Allentown, always straining under the quarantine, opened up November 1, literally two days after a report headlined “High Mortality Rate Due To Influenza: Epidemic Has Not Yet Run Its Course in This City” and just across the page from “Influenza Takes Toll Of Five at Hockendauqua.”

Who can make sense of all that?

As November 1918 turned, then, the number of new cases was dizzyingly up or down depending on where you were and when you checked.

Familiar territory. Welcome to the Monkey House. Welcome to May 12, 2020.

But something different caught Gadfly’s eye in that same November 1 paper announcing Allentown’s freedom from quarantine.

Something about children.

Something he hasn’t been thinking about now.

The Spanish Flu was a disease that devastatingly struck whole families, whole households, and all at once. There are many stories about husbands and wives sick together and even dying together. If the children were lucky enough to survive (there was no thought of child immunity then — stories of children one month old dying were common), what happened to them?  On November 2 Schuylkill county announced 3000 orphans, 500 of whom maintained at public expense.

Wow!

So this joyful article about care for children in Allentown permanently or temporarily orphaned by the Flu caught Gadfly’s attention.

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“Good, big-hearted men” from the Kiwanis Club opened a temporary home for children stranded by the Flu in the Saeger Mansion, then at 4th and Walnut, across the street from Allen Park and Trout Hall in Allentown.

See: Allentown home for children

A fairly recent Morning Call article says, “Fourth Street was once the grandest address in the Lehigh Valley — think of a millionaires’ row.”

And thus the “magnificent” Saeger Mansion, one of the “most commodious” homes in the City, with foyer window and skylight by Tiffany’s, but recently vacated at that time, was turned into a storybook setting for the care of children permanently or temporarily cast away by the Flu.

Quite a project, one Gadfly is not sure we see the need of today.

A “wave of revolt”: one pandemic’s pretty much like another — except for one thing

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Spanish Flu logo

For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

October 31, 1918

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May 10, 2020

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Schuylkill County revolts and our governor does nothing.

Peter Hall, “Schuylkill County tells governor it’s going rogue, easing coronavirus restrictions without permission.” Morning Call, May 20, 2020.

Six Schuylkill County elected officials, including all three county commissioners, informed Gov. Tom Wolf that next Friday, the county will ease restrictions put into place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in defiance of the governor’s order to remain closed. In doing so, Schuylkill joined Lebanon and Dauphin counties in declaring an end to the shutdown without waiting for permission. “We have heard the pleas of our residents who desire the ability to safely re-open their businesses and safely return to work,” the letter Saturday from the Schuylkill officials said.

“I trust and have faith in the great people and businesses of Pennsylvania to operate in a manner that protects those of our population in harm’s way and allows our residents to go back to work, enjoy their communities and have a quality of life. I, however, have no faith in Gov. Wolf and Secretary Levine’s ability to do the right thing,” Haste wrote, calling Wolf a dictator.

Wolf’s spokeswoman said Saturday night that the governor is aware of the statements and is hopeful that everyone will act in the best interest of public health.

The City of Lancaster revolts and they are given a time-out.

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Now this is pretty interesting.

Let’s play Gadfly “Jeopardy.”

Question: He was the Pennsylvania governor during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918.

If you cock your ear, you can hear the Jeopardy theme playing.

You don’t know?

The correct answer is Who was Martin G. Brumbaugh.

Well, even Gadfly couldn’t answer that after reading 6-7 week’s worth of articles on the Flu; he had to look it up.

Brumbaugh is never mentioned. The governor is never mentioned.

The person in charge of Spanish Flu management in Pennsylvania is not the governor (the president is absent too, but he was bringing a world war to a close) but B. Franklin Royer, Acting State Health Commissioner.

The person in charge of Flu management is not a politician.

He’s an acting Health Commissioner.

And he takes no crapola.

Now that is very interesting.

Who leads your pandemic dream team?

Women’s work in the other pandemic

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Gadfly loves what he finds sometimes in the fine print as he wanders through the Morning Call archives from 1918.

Like this on the next-to-last page of the October 26, 1918, issue. The back page was always devoted to the classified advertisements (something interesting there too: an ad for 14-year-old boys and girls to work in the Schneider Shoe Factory, 228 N. Jefferson). So this was the tail end of the issue.

An article on what work women were doing as a result of the pandemic.

Yes, volunteering for the Red Cross, making and delivering food.

Yes, making masks.

Yes, circulating petitions.

Traditional woman’s work. Remember 1918 was even before Women’s suffrage.

But at the end of the article —

Pearl Moore and Sylvia Porter “pursuing occupations usually given men . . . putting on overalls” and working for the railroad.

Edna Furnival appointed as draughtsman — draughtsman — to replace a man “gone into the army.”

But most of all this one.

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Men were dying from the Flu. Probably more than women (think of the enormous number sick and dying in the Army camps) because of working outside the home.

More and more, women now had to take care of  “things.”

Gadfly found that little paragraph quite striking, quite revelatory — quite poignant.

A boozy tale

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Spanish Flu logo

For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Associated Press, “Pennsylvania liquor stores to reopen today at these locations for curbside pickup.” Morning Call, April 20, 2020.

In Bethlehem, 30 E. 4th St.:  610-861-2109

The noon WFMZ telecast led with the news. Booze now available. Huzza!

You’ve seen the letters to the editor: “Keeping these vitally essential stores open could’ve helped ease a lot of tension,” and “We as Americans have a right to pick and choose what we want,”

Makes you think, doesn’t it? What’s essential and what isn’t?

To many, liquor is essential.

Morning Call articles in the month of October 1918 tell a funny story of how our ancestors handled liquor deprivation during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

The state health department turned down a petition for an exemption of the ban from the Wholesale Malt and Liquor Dealers Protective Association. An association protecting the right to imbibe?

A brewing company presented a conundrum to the Allentown Health Board when it “requested the privilege” of selling a beverage one half of one percent alcohol. The Health Board debated whether such minuscule content constituted an alcoholic drink — a debate reminiscent, no doubt, of such questions as “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” presented to St. Thomas Aquinas. Nice try by the brewers. No resolution is reported.

The local Health Board was no place for dummies. A special meeting was required because physicians were issuing prescriptions to liquor dealers for liquor. Health Department headquarters in Harrisburg was called in on this one. The hope was that they would restrict such permissible requests to a quart or less. Can you see the label? Take two shots and call me in the morning.

Farmers found cider so in demand to quench thirsts that they could get “the fancy price of 35 cents a gallon.” A jug by any other name . . .

Black market booze went for $3 a quart. You can hear the babies around town crying for lack of milk.

Saloon owners did lose licenses for illegal sales as they succumbed to the siren call of illegal demand. Why don’t we use the term “saloon” much any more? It has such a delightfully wicked aura.

Wouldn’t you have loved to know serial slurpers “Brindamour” and “Brick ” O’Donnell, surely among the most colorful anti-heroes of the local pandemic? Good boys, I imagine them, whose mother the widow Mary Kate Brogan O’Donnell, sat nightly by the fire chewing the hem of her apron in terror at the roar of gunfire rattling her humble crockery, but who, “driven to desperation by the quarantine of saloons,” crossed over into denizens of rat holes and railroad yards as a result of their addiction to the demon drink.

Flu 91Brick was captured in a “state of stupefaction,” but Brindamour, showing moves that earned him that football scholarship to Notre Dame and maternal dreams of a fulfilling career, danced around the flying bullets of that committed North-Ireland foe of fun Patrolman Harsch (“Harsh”!) to live and slurp again as he matured into a life of lovable criminality. There’s a Cagney movie based on him.

But seriously.

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Open bars cause an emigration like the Muslims fleeing the Middle East.

If you had a boat capable of crossing the Delaware in October 1918, you could make some money. Like selling parking spaces in front of your house during Musik-Fest.