It was the early 1950s and my summers centered around playing and having fun. We were too young to be aware of the fear of polio that was gripping the world.
There were not many children in the neighborhood, and my best friend was Susie Kessler, who lived next door. Susie is three years older than I, but we got along fine, playing games, making ice cream, going to the library and generally keeping occupied.
Polio was the “scare” at that time. It seemed to attack children more, causing paralysis, or the bulbar form which was more lethal. The only one I had ever heard of as having polio was President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Mrs. Kessler, Susie’s mom, was a teacher and had us doing creative and educational things, but one summer there was a change in what we were doing. Caution was the key word. We no longer went to the swimming pool or drank from public drinking fountains, and each day we took a nap, even though we thought we were past the nap stage.
One day I went to see if Susie could play. Her grandmother was at the house, and she told me Susie was at the hospital. That was all I was told.
My mother called the Kesslers only to find out Susie had polio. From then on I was watched closely to see if I exhibited any of the signs of the disease. Fortunately I didn’t, but didn’t understand how my friend got sick and we were always together.
Susie’s recuperation from polio was long and I missed the times we had in the past, when we could play together. It was a long road for her, but she grew up, went to college, got married and raised her family. She lives in Michigan and we communicate at Christmas.
Those years had people changing their lives and living in a degree of fear. Help came through.
Dr. Jonas Salk from the University of Pittsburgh had been researching polio and in 1952 primary testing began. Today there are few cases of the disease with vaccinations administered at an early age.
Right now there is someone working on a vaccine to attack the coronavirus, and for that we need to hope and believe and have faith over fear.
Thanks … to Glenn Klecka for reminding me to have readers check out the Czech Plaza restaurant on Cermak Road for carryout. Nothing like comfort food, Czech style.