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Archive for August 2011

Grandma told me about the terrible Flu that nearly killed them all in October of 1918. (The picture was taken in 1916.) She and Pop, along with my dad (5yrs) and his brother Harry (2yrs) lay on pallets around the coal stove, too sick to do any more than add a lump of coal to the fire when needed. A couple of hired hands, stricken with the illness, lay in the room also. One hired hand, Red Mallory, didn’t get it and left. Every day Aunt Em came in her wagon pulled by a white mule and left a pot of soup on the doorstep. Grandma described crawling around and spooning it to everyone. Grandma said Aunt Em’s daughter, Margaret, (19yrs) died of the flu and they were all too sick to attend her funeral. Grandma said you couldn’t get anyone to come and help, because they either had it too, or were so afraid of contracting it. It’s had to imagine being so sick and having to pump your own water and heat it, chop wood, and feed coal into a stove. The doctor came to the house and said Grandma might live, but would probably never walk again. When it finally passed, Grandma could walk but was completely bald. She crocheted white lace caps  to wear until her hair grew back. She said one day, a year or two later, they were all having Sunday dinner, and Red Mallory came to the door. He opened it and threw his hat into the room, a way of asking if he were welcome. Grandma said she got up, picked up his hat, threw it out the door, and called to him: “You’re not welcome here anymore, Red. You left us when we needed you so bad.” And that was the last they ever saw of Red Mallory.

Military Hospital in KS

I decided to do some research on the flu of 1918 and was shocked to find it recorded as the worst global disaster in history, killing an estimated 50-100 million people, mostly young adults. It was called “The Spanish Flu” because it started in  Spain in May, killing 8 million. WWI enabled it to spread and diffuse. Men from across the nation came together and brought the flu with them. It struck first in Kansas in a military camp. Symptoms were hemorrhage from nose , stomach, and intestines. The majority of deaths came from bacterial pneumonia, a secondary infection caused by influenzia. Pres. Wilson had just given his 14pt. address. and was sick at the time. An estimated  675,000 Americans died from it. One quarter of Americans were infected and one fifth of the world population, from Alaska to Africa and islands of Japan. 17 million died in India. The government required mailmen to wear gauze masks. Railroads and streetcars wouldn’t allow unmasked passengers. Cities dug mass graves without coffins for victims. Funerals were limited to 15 min. and stores were not allowed to hold sales. Some cities closed all stores and required customers to leave orders outside. Health care workers and grave diggers were too ill to work. The Indiana State Board of Health issued an order closing schools, churches, libraries, and theaters. No public meetings were allowed. Homes with flu patients were marked with placards and Indianapolis required those who left home to wear masks.
I interviewed some seniors in my community and learned that some local churches only allowed outdoor funeral services. One man told me the local funeral home had so many bodies they actually stood them up against the walls until they could get caskets ready.
I wonder if history books brushed lightly over this part of our country’s story, or if I were asleep when it was taught.

NYC Mailman

The Lifeguard

My daughter and I packed the van and headed for our annual trek to Destin, Florida,  with our three kids, ages 9-11. It’s an eleven-hour drive but no one cares. We left at six and moved into our condo on the beautiful wind-swept beach by five, even with stops for breakfast and lunch. We always have our first dinner at The Back Porch, a nearby rustic beachfront restaurant, and watch parasailers glide past. A few isolated showers interrupted our afternoons but left us plenty of time for romping in the waves with the kids. They snorkled, surfed on boogie boards, built sandcastles, and dug their own spa. Mornings found us shopping at the many gift shops and outlets. Lunches always included fresh seafood and the long afternoons on the beach stretched on until dusk, when we moved to the pool until dark. Stephanie and I rented beach chairs and an umbrella, where we read on our Kindles. It’s a peaceful beach, with sugar-white sand and emerald water. I especially love to watch the troupes of pelicans gliding by in formation. One evening we went crab hunting until a storm chased us back inside. Another evening we were thrilled to watch baby sea turtles climb out of their nest and make their way to the sea by moonlight. This was the highlight of our trip. 

I dropped off a copy of my newest book, Back to Baileys Chase, at Destin Beach Club, the condo where  the main characters Sparky and Grey stayed on their vacation. I thought their guests might enjoy reading it. I sent a copy last winter to the Destin Middle School and the fifth-grade teachers read it to their classes. They invited me to come and speak to their classes, but had no funds to pay authors’ expenses, so I declined. I offered to come when I returned to Destin, but it didn’t work out since they don’t start school until Aug. 22. Maybe we’ll work something out later. We’re already booked for next year; maybe they’ll start earlier.

In the book, (chapter 12) Sparky and Grey have a magical adventure on the beach and warn the lifeguard of a shark lurking near the pier where children are swimming. I included photos of the lifeguard and the pool where the girls swam. (Try to imagine the legs belonging to the Bailey girls.)

Sparky and Grey in Pool

Destin Beach Club


I recently attended my grandson’s sixth birthday party, complete with pool, slip & slide, pinata, and helium balloons. It brought to mind my own sixth birthday party. My foot had been injured in a bike accident and caused me to miss six weeks of kindergarten. I missed my friends, so my mother invited my little classmates to our home for my birthday on March 24th. It was my first birthday party! Mom put a flowered tablecloth on the dining room table and decorated it with crepe paper streamers and balloons (not helium.) I remember being so excited when my little friends arrived and hopping around on my good foot while my injured one wore a white bandage.  Mom served vanilla ice cream and homemade cake with pink frosting. There was no digital camera or flash bulb to capture me blowing out my six candles.

We played “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” and dropped wooden clothespins into a milk bottle. Mom had hidden peanuts all over the house and the children loved finding them. Do children today know what clothespins are? Would they recognize a glass milk bottle? Heaven forbid exposing children to peanuts! Luckily, no one died that day.

I loved opening the gifts, of course. Several little girls brought me hair ribbons, which were fashionable for my age group and pleasing to my hair- sylist mother. I don’t remember any other gifts except the one that caused all the excitement. One little girl, whose mother was to be our first grade teacher in the fall, brought six colored baby chicks. When I opened the box they peeped and ran in all directions while the children sqealed with delight. Yes, they were colored by someone who didn’t think the chicks would mind being dipped into dye. They were pink, blue, yellow, green, lavender, and red fuzz balls with legs. Sorry to say, they only lived a few days. My farm grandmother, who raised chickens, was horrified with the whole business.

Waiting for Jennifer's Mother

The only picture I have is this one of me and a little girl named Jennifer sitting on the back porch steps squinting into the sun, while we waited for her mother to pick her up. The others had gone. I’m sure Mom was too busy chasing the chickens around and trying to control the children to think of taking a picture until it was almost over. I wonder where Jennifer is now. I hope she’s happy.

P.S. Click on the word “Comments” above if you want to know more about the foot injury.

Hi! I'm Marlis.

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