As I recall it was the summer of 1952, I was seven years old and we were
going to celebrate my Grandpa Yohnke's birthday. A potluck picnic was
planned for Sunday noon at the Lake View Community Building. My
Grandparents had four married daughters and one son. All five siblings,
their spouses, and children came to celebrate the day. The weather was
hot and the flies were abundant. Within 7 days after our celebration, 12
members of the five families had come down with the dreaded disease
My brother was the first. He was taken to the hospital in Fort Dodge
where there was a polio wing. One of my other brothers and myself came
down with it a few days later. We both had much lighter cases and were
quarantined in two separate rooms at home. Dr. Lierman would come 7
miles from town to make a house call. I remember having to sit up and he
would say, "O.K. Put your chin to your chest." I would try, but my head
was pulled back so far there was no way my chin would touch my chest.
Because of this I could not lay on my back. To eat I would lay on my
stomach with my head extended over the edge of the bed and try to get
the food to my mouth.
Our farm was quarantined and people were afraid to even drive past our
house. One neighbor would meet a bus on the highway west of our farm and
would have to walk down the road in front of our house. We would see her
run the distance in front of the yard and lane. People did call to check
on us and sent lots of cards, but I don't remember anyone coming except
My one brother and I had no after effects except for some weak muscles
in our back, shoulders, and abdomen and each had one leg a little
shorter than the other. The other brother was left with a paralyzed
shoulder and arm. He was blind and read Braille at the time. This was a
big set back for him because he no longer had the feeling in his fingers
tips to read.
Out of the other four families, I had two Uncles and one cousin who were
crippled, and one cousin who was in the iron lung for a long time and
lived for 10 years in a body case before passing away. Five cousins had
as mild a case as mine or less. My Mother always blamed the flies for
caring the polio germ to the picnic.
I remember the Polio Clinics. As I recall maybe twice a year or so some
doctors, nurses and physical therapists would come to the county seat
and set up clinics. We would spend most of the day being checked over by
several people. Checking the three of us on what we could do and what
weakness or limitations we had. Then they would teach Mom exercises that
she was suppose to do with each of us. I remember my mother going with
my aunt, cousin, and my brother to Warm Springs, Georgia where there
were warm springs that had a healing effect for polio victims. I also
remember when the first polio sugar cube came out. I didn't take it the
first year because I had had the disease, but by the second year I was
suppose to take it because I could get a different strain of the disease
and it would be much worse.
To this day if I ever get the "ache all over flu", the first thing I do
is put my chin to my chest and say "Good, at least I don't have Polio!"
Mary L. Ogren Osborn,
Polk County (formerly of Sac County)