The influenza pandemic of 1918 had not only altered the lives of thousands, but the habitual lives of family and work as well. The Spanish Influenza collected more lives than all of the casualties of war in the twentieth century combined. After the disease had swept through the nation, towns that once began their days in lazy, comfortable manners had begun to struggle to get through a single day. What started as a mild neglect of a typical fever or case of chills had escalated and grown at an alarmingly rapid rate to be fearsome and tragic.
The influenza spread through the simplest means of a welcoming handshake, a gentle touch, or the lightest kiss. Anna Milani, a survivor of the disease, solemnly recalled a remorseful memory, “I remember my mother putting a white sheet or a white piece of cloth over his face and they closed the casket” (Kenmer, Influenza 1918). With young and healthy adults diminishing in the hands of the epidemic, children and infants were more than susceptible to the preying disease. Landlords or neighbors reported homes that sheltered the sick in fear that the infection would spread but at the expense of breaking up families and separating loved ones. Tenants attempted to ignore the callings of doctors who darkened their doorsteps because of the callous reality the notice warranted to the public of the illness that lurked within their homes. The greater dread that came with the doctors was that those who were in ailment were to be ordered to the cramped tent hospitals and never to be seen again unless they were cured or dead.
The month of October was one of difficulty and with the war that still raged overseas in Europe, the influenza only added to the chaotic state the nation was in. Medical scientists frantically looked for a cure; doctors were forced to manage with the little supplies at their disposal to treat the in-pouring patients, and those who were still unaffected blindly grasped for a solution. Lee Reay, another survivor of the influenza, reminisced:
It wasn’t real medicine, but it smelled like medicine and it tasted like medicine and we put a lot of honey in it so that it would taste pretty good and we passed it out to everyone who wanted medicine. It went in a hurry, there wasn’t much left. It didn’t do any harm. Most of them thought it did good[sic] (Kenmer Influenza 1918).
Homemade remedies were not uncommon and varied from necklaces of garlic to the distinct scents of camphor, but none to prove to be promising. Death tolls kept rising and some children were left to fend for themselves. Parents sometimes left their healthier kids in the care of relatives that lived further away from the pandemic or had spare bedrooms that better the chances of surviving. Family members that passed away were denied a proper church service as a method of slowing the spread of influenza; only immediate members of the family were allowed a small and rather quick procession alongside the coffin. Ministers and priests were...