By Reno Bailey
The awful influenza epidemic of 1918 had subsided by the end of the decade, but still, in the bitter cold of January 1920, the disease lingered in Cliffside, as several residents came down with flu symptoms.
That was the good news. The bad news was, others were contracting smallpox.
We know this because Broadus Roach, who managed the Memorial Building, kept a journal of each day’s activities.
Although vaccine was available in those days, few people had been vaccinated, and most who chose to get the shot did so only after the outbreak began.
Roach got his shot on Wednesday, January 21, 1920. His experience reminds us that the effects of a vaccination were nearly as bad as the disease itself.
On Friday, the 23rd, he wrote that his father, who lived in Harris, “is getting on O.K. but will not come to see me until there is no Small Pox in town.”
“On account of Flu and Small Pox in town,” he wrote, “it was decided not to have any services in the Churches.”
On Monday he complains, “My arm is getting pretty sore from vaccinations. Have had a severe headache all day.” (Was there a series of shots?)
On Tuesday: “Have had a head ache all day and my vaccinated arm is getting pretty sore.”
On Wednesday: “I have suffered today from vaccination and am feeling almost too bad to stir, but I went to see Summie Scruggs tonight and carried him some Apples, Oranges, and Bananas. He and Roy were both asleep. Roy is suffering from vaccination.”
Thursday found him “sick today seems as if every bone in my body is aching. The sore on my arm is exuding a quantity of pus and have bathed and dressed it. After Supper my limbs ached so bad I could hardly keep still So I walked up to J. B. Freeman’s to see how his arm is progressing. It’s a sight, but better.”
On Friday, his arm seems to have improved. “Have been to the I. O. O. F. [Odd Fellows] Hall tonight. Many thought there would be no meeting on account of Small pox in town. There were only ten there. L T. Hamrick, W. R. Morrow, P. D. Padgett, Joe T. Walker, C. C. Tate, J. L. Taylor, J. Y. Padgett, John L. Scruggs, M. J. Williams & myself.”
On Saturday, he writes that “Tobe R. Honeycutt died today at the Broadus E. Gold Farm over on the Chesnee Road. I used to go to school with Tobe and he has lived near home several years. He was always a good neighbor, always ready and glad to accomodate one when opportunity afforded. He and all the family have been sick of Influenza. The rest of the family are reported better.”
That night he “went to see Erastus [Freeman]; he had ‘to go in’ at noon with sore arm. Jay is getting sick with his arm.”
One wonders if anyone else succumbed in that cruel winter 89 years ago.
This article appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of The Cliffside Chimes, newsletter of the Cliffside Historical Society.