Describe what you remember
about the fear surrounding polio epidemics:
It was in the early 1950's and I was in the lower elementary
grades in Coralville, IA. We had heard a little about the
terrible and dreaded polio. Patients in nearby University
Hospital in Iowa City were confined to an iron lung and many
ended up as invalids was as much as I understood.
One warm fall day when we got to school our class was told that
we could not enter our classroom and should go outside and sit in
the grass together for the time being. Later they told us that
one of our classmates had come down with polio and they weren't
certain if it was safe for us to all be in that same
Eventually that day we did get to go back into the school and
resume a normal schedule. The school had contacted authorities
that told them it was alright for us to be in our room. Our
classmate was gone most of that year, but eventually came back to
school with braces and crutches.
The disease terrified everyone so much that when it was finally
announced that there was a vaccine, it was like a celebration. We
took our sugar cube with the precious liquid on it gratefully.