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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Perils of Childhood in the 30s

With all the discussion recently about childhood vaccinations, I started thinking about how it was when I was a child. No vaccinations, of course, other than smallpox. Having what were called childhood diseases was a rite of passage. Oh, we did have one form of immunization. Your friend came over to play and went home early because she didn't feel well. A few days later you came down with the measles or mumps or whatever was going around at the time. Your Mom called the school and informed them you were sick, and would be out a few days. The school nurse then came to your house and checked you out confirming you had the measels or whatever it was this time. She left your caregiver instructions on your care, and on her way out posted a large quarantine sign next to your front door. Of course, everyone coming and going had been through this routine in their own childhood so were immune. I don't think much attention was paid to those signs except perhaps by curious neighbors who now knew what was going on in your house.

You were sick for a few days during which you got special little treats. Then a few more days to fully recover, and voila! You were now immune to whatever it was. Parents were not even upset with the family who let their sick child come over. The general feeling was to let your child get "it" then it was over and one less thing to cause concern. No one, not even the family physician, knew at the time that these diseases could have serious side effects sometimes leaving the child with life long problems.

Every child did get the small pox vaccination. You went to your local Health Department on the day the shots were being given, stood in a line, got up to the nurse and stuck out your arm. Pretty much like the flu shots of today. You got a slight swelling at the site of the shot and were left with a little round scar. Every person of my generation and several generations to follow can show you exactly where they got their smallpox vaccination. Our daughter who was born in 1962 was a member of the last generation to get a smallpox vaccination. The disease had been eradicated.

Injury was not uncommon. We did not have TV so spent our time outside running around and playing. This was during the depression so few families had the money to rush a child to the doctor for simple cuts and scrapes. Oh. a broken bone warranted a trip to the emergency room as well as an injury causing massive bleeding. Other than that, every family had a large bottle of iodine on the bathroom shelf. This was the standard for all cuts and scrapes. Vaseline or even butter was put on burns. No antibiotic ointments to prevent infection and certainly no tetnus shot. Those things are great, and I wouldn't want to give them up, but it is amazing the curative powers of a funny face when your mother draws it on your cut with iodine.

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