By Carol Adams
The flu struck in the fall like it normally did but this wasn’t normal.
This was the 1918 flu and it became a major killer all across the world.
A man named Emit White was one of the first to get sick in the Claudville area. He was the owner of a huge two story house with four rooms on each floor. The rest of the community brought all of the sick to his house. There were a lot of people in each room, and some even had to sleep in the kitchen. There weren’t enough beds, so some people were brought by family with a bed; some slept on cots. Mr. White’s wife tried to take care of them all and she did a pretty good job.
These were the memories of Mrs. Iowa Anderson about a tragic time in her life. She was 100-years-old when she shared this story with me. This is how she remembers this event.
Most of Mrs. Anderson’s family got sick. The only ones that did not get sick were her mother and her youngest sister, Lizzy.
In Mr. White’s house, she shared the room she was in with her dad, two brothers and other sister. At the first, everyone took pills every day to try to keep from getting sick, but after a person got sick, that person stopped taking the pills because they were useless.
At first, the doctor in the area came to see all the sick, but after so many became sick, he got scared and only came to the window of the White house, where did what he could from outside. Neighbors would come to windows and send in food on huge trays for the sick to eat. The most common food for the neighbors to bring was whole baked apple pies.
Mrs. Anderson’s father recovered quickly from the flu. He then, like most of the ones that got better, stayed in the house with the sick and helped take care of the others, especially after Mrs. White got sick. Some family members of the sick would come in, and try to help take care of them, but about four days after they arrived, they would be in a bed, sick like those they came to help.
There was one room for the extremely ill. At one time, Mrs. Anderson was actually helping in that room when Emit White died on a cot in his own house. She said that he took one last deep breath, and when he exhaled, his mouth fell open and he was dead. Mrs. Anderson said that almost everyone got the flu and it was all anyone talked about. They didn’t have a newspaper in the area so nobody knew it was anything special when it got started but they did learn that it was a flu that killed. This area was lucky in the fact that there was only two deaths, that of Emit White and Jim Mears.
Iowa Andersen didn’t remember the flu scare in 1976, but she said that nothing could be as bad as 1918.
(After reading the book “Flu,” about the ‘Spanish flu’ of 1918, Adams – a senior in high school at the time – interviewed a neighbor, Iowa Anderson, of Claudville. Anderson was 100 and was alive during the flu pandemic of 1918.)