Second Time Around

Tales Of Vashon

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John and I compared Covid-19 shots and the damage they could do to you.  A week after the shot, the black and blue patch on my right arm looks like master sergeant’s stripes that have been ripped off.  Both of us sniveled a bit at the inconvenience and pain. John told me to quit whimpering and that we should try to compare the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 with how Vashon has been affected by the pandemic of Covid-19 of 2020.

We both reflected upon our small knowledge of the 1918 ‘Spanish’ flu.  Later we learned that it was neither ‘Spanish’ nor exactly flu.

Our memories consisted of various family tales of history. ‘Well what happened to (uncle .. Harry.. .. uh. Well what happened to Aunt May..?? Questions like that when we looked at family picture albums. Some if the answers were.. ‘He was killed in the great war.. or ‘she just died young.  .. ‘

Only later did we realize that many of these deaths.. especially the WW I deaths were by the pandemic of flu. Much later.  As in two generations later.

Fifty-five pages of the Vashon News Record later and we became better informed of the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918.  The similarities between then and now make a person very uncomfortable trying to understand why we didn’t learn from history.

10/10/1918
Schools ordered closed – By reason of the prevalence of influenza it has been deeded best to close the schools of King County.    Churches, schools and places of amusement closed by reason of the prevalence of influenza.  The County Board of Health has issued an order prohibiting pubic assemblages.

11/7/1918
Door left open and “In Flu Enza”; visited the Island to escape the influenza.  Mrs. Gowan of Ellisport lost her daughter after a brief illness.  Another daughter and her husband are seriously ill at their home in Seattle following a visit to the Island with the hope of escaping the influenza.

Cove Comments: There’s no need of ventilation in Colvos hall for fear of the “Flu”, because it’s colder than the proverbial barn, and when a fellow has been sitting there from 9am to 3 pm he feels like a cold storage carcass.

11/7/1918
A number of Dockton people went to Tacoma on Monday and witnessed the demonstrations over the good news that the war was ended.  John Satlow, a member of Mr. Theo Berry’s crew of the “Kanaka Boy” died Monday morning of pneumonia at the Tacoma General Hospital.
It is suggested that all school buildings be thoroughly cleaned before November 18, and that every precaution be taken to stop the epidemic.

1/2/1919
Flu in Dockton: Little Sandy Gorsuch is having a tussle with the whooping cough.
Vashon: Sidney Ringdahl was home from Camp Lewis.  Martin Tjomsland is just convalescing from a severe illness.   Elmer Ringdahl was discharged from Camp Lewis.   Members of the H Steen family have been on the sick list the past week.   Ewald Petersen has been quite ill from an attack of influenza the past week.   Mrs B Reed and daughter,Mrs Arthur King, are reported to be convalescing from an attack of influenza.
“I’m Thru – Enza” Germ Makes Debut – With the cessation of hostilities the Red Cross is called upon to combat a new epidemic, originating this time within its own ranks.  The affliction is known as “I’m Thru Enza.”   The initial symptom is sense of lassitude; a feeling of “Whats the use?  It’s all over; why should I work?”
Lisabeula: Mrs Hampton was taken to Seattle some weeks ago to be under the care of a specialist is not improving and the doctor does not hold out any hope of her recovery.

3/13/1919
Vashon: Mr.  P.D. Halsey is improving right along.  His neighbors are expecting to see him out digging in his garden as soon as the showers cease.

4/3/1919
Mrs. Hans Brevie has spent a week with her mother to get a lung full of good Vashon air.  Snatched out of the jaws of death by the mercy of God and the loving care of relatives, doctors and nurses: but on the high road to health once more.

4/17/1919
Dr and Mrs W Mattson motored over from Seattle to visit Mr Mattson’s parents, Mr and Mrs. Neils Mattson.  “Billy” Mattson returned from France a few weeks ago and this is his first visit to the Island since his return.

We looked these up on local sources.  As we looked backwards in time, many diverse national sources of the time seemed to indicate similar reactions that could be seen in our greater experiences of recent history.

A negative and occasionally hostile reaction to government action of any nature; a blooming of strange theories of international conspiracy; a massive plethora of supposed cures and remedies!

All very much like today except for the massive censorship and denial by government (of the time) and private capitalistic interests as a result of the war in Europe.  This denial certainly did not aid in efforts to contain the spread.  Even that denial which was based upon the involvement in the European war had a certain parallel with today.  One could observe this phenomenon from the beginning of the spread and onward during the previous presidential order.   Things change and yet stay the same, don’t they?

One very positive outcome that was a result of this great and deadly event was a massive but gradual reinforcement of the public health duties and responsibilities of government to a far more assertive and active element of public life.

Perhaps this augmentation of a serious and vital public interest will likewise be a result of our year long quarantine.
We shall see.