When I first began to research the 1918 flu pandemic, I immediately went to my youngest child’s history book. It is a colossus 1,000-plus page hardback beauty. It is so amazing that I have been tempted to keep it after the school year. At least, I was tempted (and would pay for it) until the search for the 1918 pandemic proved disappointing.
Out of all those beautiful pages in this enormous history book, one that any kid carting it around the school would develop biceps to rival Dwayne Johnson, it offered only a small breakout box, a handful of graphs, and nothing more. I couldn’t believe it.
I sure hope our future history books offer more than a handful of graphs on the current Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)!
Fortunately, Rachel Brock from the Greenville Public Library Genealogy Department came to the rescue with a number of local newspaper clippings. The stories provided significant similarities from 1918 to today. Several stood out, such as one dated Oct. 30, 1918, listing the businesses (from churches to schools) that were closed due to the flu. There followed another story, an expectation to lift the ban on Nov. 6, only for another story dated Nov. 13 with a headline the ban was lifted too soon.
I am grateful that Rachel not only provided these clippings but along with her mother, Karen Brock, and her aunt, Sherri Stump Linder, shared via Facebook chat the story of the latter sisters’ father, who was only four years old when the flu took the life of his mother and a baby sister.
I honestly wasn’t sure how to respond on several occasions, struck by the thought of a four-year-old going through such a loss. I noted this in the conversation, writing it was a lot to take in for a child — Is it something he spoke of often or just on occasion?
They said he spoke about it a lot.
Undoubtedly, we will also speak of this time a lot in the future.
Annette Stewart, with the Arcanum Wayne Trail Historical Society, also provided information on a local woman who lost a grandmother to the flu in 1918. Her story can be viewed online at awths.org.
Karen Besecker, a research specialist at the Garst Museum, also provided stories close to home — her grandparents who lost a son due to the pandemic in 1918.
There’s so much history, and it deserves far more than a few graphs in future history books, don’t you agree?
So when history is written about today, whole chapters should be devoted to individuals working in hospitals, groceries, pharmacies, gas stations, restaurants and more. Stories should include retirement communities working to protect residents while keeping them connected to the outside world. (I would be remiss if I did not encourage everyone to visit the Facebook pages of those communities to see all the activities, photos, and more being shared.) How the schools made sure students continued not only their education online, but also received meals every day.
Granted, at this pace, and if it were up to me, the history book will be so enormous only an ebook will be available as Dwayne Johnson would not be up to the task of carrying such a copy given the enormity.
Bethany J. Royer-DeLong is a reporter for the Daily Advocate and Early Bird and a life-long resident of Darke County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in work psychology and a master’s degree in organizational leadership because she’s a sucker for all things jobs. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.