Tag Archives: polio

Remembering the Past — No Swimming in the River Before the 24th of May Weekend and Other Things

Remembering the Past — No Swimming in the River Before the 24th of May Weekend and Other Things
Visual Storyteller · 20h
Only noticed this week that there’s a bell in the Post Office Clocktower. Only visible from Beckwith St.

Tara-dawn Taylor The last time this bell rang out was during the anniversary of 100 years of the end of the war, it rang out 100 times along with a few other bells in town. read As Time Goes By — The Old Post Office Clock

Jo-Anne Dowdall-BrownMy Dad always told me he would know if I did something wrong before I would get home! True words!

Joann VoyceBack in the 1950’s that bell chiming at 11 pm was our curfew. I could make it from most places in town to my home by the time it had rung 11 times

American suburban childhood, 1950s : TheWayWeWere

Sherene Baird Flint—I grew up in Carleton Place,Ontario during a time when everyone treated each other like family (we never got away with ANYTHING, and I mean NOTHING!!!) that is because everyone knew whose child I belonged to!!

We went outside to play, got dirty and we didn’t eat fast food (it was a treat). We ate Bologna or jam sandwiches, raw hot dogs and cooked homemade food. We ate penny candy, yes, I said, “penny”, and fake candy cigarettes, black cat gum.

On weekends we would go for a drive and drop in to visit someone (no planning a week in advance). If they weren’t home, we would drive a little farther.We played kick the can, Red Light Green Light, Hide & Seek, Truth or Dare, Red Rover, What Time Is It Mr. Wolf, Tag, Dodge ball, Baseball, jump rope, and road hockey.

We rode bikes and raced against each other.We cried if we couldn’t go outside and play. There was no bottled water, we drank from the faucet and the garden hose (don’t forget to let that water run for a minute because it was hot when you just first turned it on!).

We watched cartoons on Saturday morning (everyone looked forward to Saturday morning cartoons! Especially bugs bunny, our parents loved it because they were able to sleep in knowing we were occupied). We watched hockey, comedy movies and played cards or board games.

We played in the woods, built forts, and rode our bikes for hours WITHOUT a cell phone. When you fell you wiped off the dirt and blood and kept on going. If you wanted to talk to your friends, you had to go to their houses and find them.

We weren’t AFRAID OF ANYTHING. Our parents knew that when the street lights came on we were on our way home. If someone had a fight, that’s what it was…a fight.

Kids DIDN’T HAVE ACCESS TO GUNS when I grew up. Dusk was our curfew. School was mandatory, and we watched our mouths around our elders because ALL your neighbours knew your parents, so we knew if we didn’t, we were in big trouble when we got home.I really miss those days. We were taught to be respectful and we didn’t give our parents a hard time. We had a respectful fear of our parents, teachers, AND THE LAW!

We were taught to work hard for what we wanted.Life is short, very short…..be humble and kind and respectful.Re-post if you’re proud that you came from a close-knit community and will never forget where you came from!

Ted HurdisYes to all of the above. Nestle quick and toast with peanut butter and jam to watch the cartoons. Gum out of the hockey card packs. Some things are better gone like ” ****** babies ” candy. Imagine asking for that on a candy store today !! Wow.. Coffee Talk– Coolidge’s Penny Candy and Rochester Street– For Tom Edwards

Alana Flint Great description Sherene! I remember and did all of that! We used to bike to the park with our 25 cents to spend at the shack…a hot dog, drink (in a glass bottle) and a chocolate bar. We’d spend the day swimming and get sunburned (no sunscreen). Rossy Doyle would be at the park in the afternoon with games and puzzles for us to use. I had many skinned knees from the Twirlers. Good times!

Dale CostelloDid all that and even had a paper route too. Played street hockey under the street lights on Rochester Street. Had a BB gun, but hit a neighbor kid and got into trouble. Didn’t like him anyway.

Ray PaquetteIn the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am reminded of a similar fear we had as kids growing up-polio. The similarities with COVID 19 are striking: until Dr Salk and his vaccine it was constantly on our minds, particularly in the summer. We all took precautions based on the latest public health warnings but as with COVID 19, we were able to get through it…🤔

Ted HurdisRay Paquette no swimming in the river before the 24th of may weekend. You could get polio.🤔🤔 read Remember Polio?

Nuhaka Dreaming 1: A 1950s childhood in regional New Zealand was not all  conservative dullness | RNZ

Ray PaquetteTed Hurdis We south end boys would get an early start on the swimming season by swimming in Dibblee’s Quarry ( Mahogany Spa) at the end of Napoleon Street…

Dan Williams Can you remember going out to Dibblee’s quarry to get an early start on the swimming season? The quarry ice was gone earlier and the spring sun helped to increase the water temperature to almost an acceptable level..

Dan WilliamsHey Llew Lloyd being from the better side of town we had our own quarry, Dibley’s, to swim in. It was however not used much in my time except for rafts. In my brothers day it definitley was a swimming hole with great places to dive from. I can also remember picnicing there with my family

Ted HurdisRay Paquette swam there many times freaking out when the crawfish would nibble your toes

Margaret GreerDon’t forget Saturday afternoons at the Movie Theatre. For 25 cents !The cowboys always won and we would all would cheer. read Memories of Carleton Place — The Roxy and Marilyn Monroe

Ray PaquetteLlew Lloyd Or a comic book at Mac William’s on the way home…. read Before and After in Carleton Place — Mac Williams and The Good Food Co

Jill SeymourRay Paquette does anyone else remember the unique smell of William’s store. I loved it and every time someone mentions the store in these posts I get it back😊

Marilyn WhiteFree swim lessons in the morning and playing there until supper. The life guards were your friend. Playing in Treasure Valley. Boys and girls playing together. It was the “ best of times”! read Looking Deeper at Treasure Valley in Carleton Place

Diane Lackey JohnsonVery well written, Sherene. Things were sure different back then. Too bad kids today don’t have the same experiences.

Nancy HudsonYour posting certainly sounds like the Carleton Place I grew up in way back in the 50’s. Lived at the park in the summer and the rink in the winter.


Memories of Carleton Place — The Roxy and Marilyn Monroe

As Time Goes By — The Old Post Office Clock

Coffee Talk– Coolidge’s Penny Candy and Rochester Street– For Tom Edwards

Pour Some Sugar on Me! The Demise of the Penny Candy

Before and After in Carleton Place — Mac Williams and The Good Food Co

Looking Deeper at Treasure Valley in Carleton Place

Remember Polio?

A Letter to my Grandchildren April 14, 2020 — Linda Knight Seccaspina

A Letter to my Grandchildren April 14, 2020 — Linda Knight Seccaspina


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During the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919, I found many letters written how people felt. I decided to write one for posterity.

To my sweet angels,

The only thing I can remember similar to this at your age was living in “a polio world” in the 1950s. Birthday parties and friends were shunned less the “polio germ” lived within them or their homes. Today, you my Grandchildren are living in a different world, yet it feels like the same world. I wonder if you will remember it like I remember the years of polio. 

Each day your Grandmother wakes up during this pandemic confused as to what day it is, yet somehow, none of this is a dream. Empty silent streets affirm the daily unimaginable reality show that we are all living through.

I don’t think I have felt melancholy until today, and after reading through some Facebook posts I see others are feeling the same way. I have made a great effort to think positive, even though I worry if any traces of COVID-19 have wandered into this house. Some nights I pull the sheet over my head in case the virus mysteriously hangs in the air. What if it suddenly infiltrates me making me feel like someone pulled a corset too tight? What if I never see you again?  I keep forgetting I am one of those that are in the high risk group and I must be careful.

I lay my head down on top of my laptop genuinely tired. Sleep is lacking greatly at night combined with the wildest dreams I have ever had. Last night I was running an auction in some stairwell and all I could see was rows of faces sitting in old wooden Sunday School chairs on each level. Faces were glued to what I was saying– but were they listening? It reminded me of a story your Great Grandmother used to tell me.

In the 1940s a Tetanus vaccination was introduced in Canada and many parents didn’t want to have their children vaccinated. Your Great Grandmother told me that she had heard stories that a child in Dunham, Quebec had gotten the inoculation and “ended up on all fours”. There is no proof regarding that statement of hers – but I know she went down to the High School daily pleading in front of a group of seated teachers and school elders. For a month she begged them to spare her children from being vaccinated, but in the end both your Grandfather Arthur and your great Uncle Fred Jr. were inoculated.

After the inoculation Fred Jr. got sick and died 5 months later. Each day when the doctor would come down those orange stairs from the second floor he would tell  your Great Grandmother that he had no clue how to help her eldest child. In 1941 Frederick Alexander Knight died at the age of 19, and the only memory that was left of him was a photo of him on the wall beside the verandah door. I have no idea what happened to that photo, and the only proof that Fred Jr. was born, lived, and died in Cowansville, Quebec is on the family gravestone that sits in the Emmanuel United Church Cemetery on Main Street in Cowansville.

There were also the occasional bats that used to fly out of hidden corners in the dead of the night in the old house. The discovery that bats caused rabies in the 1950s had increased public fear. The radio and newspapers drove your Great Grandmother to full tilt. The very transient sighting of a bat caused her to scream to keep my head down. Apparently one had gotten caught in her hair once and she didn’t want anyone to catch rabies.

Of course just like now there were conspiracy stories galore and I began to think this was one of hers. In reality, bats are not interested in flying into your hair, but they may fly close to you in search of insects. Remember that if I ever tell you that story.

Great Grammy Knight would spray her floorboards in the 50s trying to keep away any bugs that might form disease in her home. I realize today that was DDT and wonder how that generation and myself lived so long.

A hundred years ago there was something called The Spanish Flu and all your ancestors lived through it. Some survived, and some did not. But unlike your ancestors a vaccine for COVID-19 will hopefully soon be developed. Maybe our social interaction will be delayed for a while and we will have to find other ways to be together without risk.

Please remember that Facebook and Instagram can never replace the human spirit and Facetime is no substitute for being in the same room with family and friends. So all we can do now is take one hour or one day at a time and get through it smiling. Why? Because your ancestors made it through and we will too. As your Great Grandmother Mary Louise Deller Knight used to tell me:

Don’t worry my birdie, just do what you’re told and keep to the rules and you will be fine.”

She is right we will be fine– this too shall pass. I promise.

Love from your Gammy who loves you so much.


Lanark County Santa Letters 1918

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 25- Code Family– A Letter from Mother


The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 24- Code Family– Built for the Love of his Life

The Original Thomas Alfred Code and Andrew Haydon Letters – —Part 1

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 2– Perth Mill

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 3– Genealogy Ennis

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 4a – Innisville the Beginning

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 4b – Innisville — Coopers and “Whipping the Cat” 1860-1870

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 4c – Innisville — Henry York and Johnny Code

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 4d – Innisville — “How We did Hoe it Down”!

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 4e – Innisville — ‘Neighbours Furnished one Another with Fire’

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 5- Code Family– “Hawthorn Mill was a Failure, and the Same Bad Luck has Followed for at Least 50 Years”

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 6- Code Family– “Almost everything of an industry trial character had vanished in Innisville in 1882”

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 7- Code Family–“Thank God, no member of my family has disgraced me or the name!

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 8- Code Family– “We got a wool sack and put him inside and took him to the bridge”

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 9- Code Family –“I had much trouble in saving myself from becoming a first class liar”

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 10- Code Family – I conjured to myself: “You will know me later!” And Peter McLaren did.

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 11- Code Family –“I continued with bull dog tenacity for 12 years without salary”

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 12- Code Family–“Had I the course to go over again I would evade outside responsibilities beyond my share, even if it cost more”

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 13- Code Family–S. S. No. 17 Drummond, Innisville

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 14- Code Family–Letters from Mother Elizabeth Hicks

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 15- Code Family– Love and Runaway Marriages

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 16- Code Family-“The fish would shoot back and forth and at time hit their legs causing them to fall”

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 17- Code Family–“A reaper with the sickle and danced all night”

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 18- Code Family–Family Records from the Family Bible

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 19- Code Family–“Michell was never known to have any money, excepting at or after tax sales”

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 20- Code Family–“Whither Are We Drifting?”– The Perth Public School

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 21- Code Family–Franktown Past and Present Reverend John May

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 22- Code Family–Field Day at “The Hill” (McDonald’s Corners)

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 23- Code Family–Brother John — John Code Goes West

The Thomas Alfred Code Journal – Letters-Part 24- Code Family– Built for the Love of his Life

When Newspapers Gossiped–David Kerr Innisville

Kerr or Ennis? More about the Innisville Scoundrel

What Went Wrong with the Code Mill Fire in Innisville?


Linda and Christmas Cards– and the Lack off–This is Your Christmas Letter:)

Linda and the Lack of a Christmas Card–This is Your Christmas Letter 2017

Pandemic Memories Then and Now

Pandemic Memories Then and Now



I have a mark on my upper arm that has never gone away in 65 years. Each time I look at it I remember going to the Cowansville, Quebec town hall and lining up to get vaccinated for Polio. Needles were not the dainty things we have today, and the oversized needle coming at me is something bad dreams are made of.

In those days you were told not to remove the ensuing arm scab or “great harm” would come to you. In fact, even more harm was supposed to come your way if you visited friends or went to birthday parties. Unless you were born before 1955 none of you will remember this reign of terror.

Polio had no cure then, and towns and cities were busy quarantining areas. Nothing seemed to work and some of the people in the Cowansville area did not have the money to care for a family member. In an attempt to control polio the old archaic rules came out: no open drains and have your Dad put those screens on the windows before something unholy came your way.

Posted on signs everywhere was: “Wash your hands, and have a bath every single day”. We were told also to stay away from crowds, and yes, more importantly keep the community public pools shut. Schools were closed and the Princess Theatre closed down on the Main Street. No one ever really found out how polio was spread, but basically if you didn’t clean your hands properly after using the bathroom that was a big one. For years doctors made you feel it was your own fault if you got polio. 

I can’t remember anyone hoarding anything but parents really began insisting about the danger of swimming in pools, or lakes. A study showed that chlorine was actually one of the few known chemicals that could attack the virus. When all the public pools started using an effective level of chlorine, most of the epidemic ended overnight.  If they had only had realized that polio was inactivated by chlorine, as well as by heat and formaldehyde which was the chemical used to inactivate the virus in Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine. Once they found a vaccine that proved to be effective against it, polio basically went away. 

Now COVID-19 is suddenly a real threat and we are going through almost the same panic scenario as we did with Polio and other infectious diseases of the past. Instead of staying out of pools, we are essentially hoarding masks, hand sanitizers among other things and toilet paper shelves have been emptied across the world. 

I have no doubt that come sort of  vaccine will be developed in the near future and unlike the first polio victims WHO has said a vast majority of coronavirus patients will recover. I know as a child I was petrified watching the news or listening to my parents talk about polio. But we need not to panic and to remember that your grandparents and great grandparents were called to war —– now we are asked to sit on our couch. We can do this.



Doug McCarten–I do indeed remember! Although the polio vaccination came too late for me as I had it at 2 years old! Apparently I was within 24 hrs of paralysis…..when I was getting better, I have a vivid memory of visiting the patients who were in Iron Lungs and talking to them in the mirror attached above their head! The room was lit only by the afternoon sun but with the curtains pulled so the light that did enter was muted….




Fear and Loathing of the School Inoculations

The Peculiar Case of Jeanetta Lena McHardy

Remember Polio?

A Tale of Two Women

For the Love of Laura Secord — The Rest of the Story

What Do You Do if You Just Can’t Walk Right In?


Fear and Loathing of the School Inoculations

Fear and Loathing of the School Inoculations

Girl's Academy, Town Hall Cowansville QC.jpg

Photo-Missisquoi Genealogy The Old Town on Main Street in Cowansville, Quebec


I remember the Spring sunshine peering through windows at the back of the old Town Hall on the Main Street in Cowansville, Quebec. The wood floors were glistening as I kept staring down at them, quietly shuffling my feet, fearful to look anywhere else. A local girl sat in a wheelchair with her head down, and the hem of her dress kept lifting each time the breeze from the door opened. I heard my mother tell someone else that the girl in the wheelchair had felt ill for a few days and then she lost control of her legs. Now she sat there with both her legs in a cast after being diagnosed with polio.

I wondered why she wasn’t in a hospital, but I knew expert help was hard to get in rural areas, so you made do with what you got. Soon we were all told to line up, and the slow moving line wound around the large room while mothers stood beside their children almost as nervous as we were.




That was an odour in the air that none of us could place until someone whispered that it smelled like rubbing alcohol. Most of the children had facial expressions of horror not knowing what their fate was as nurses began to call names. There was complete silence as I advanced to the front of that room until one child let out a huge wail and suddenly similar cries filled the town hall until it felt like the whole building was going to explode in pain.

Fear and trembling followed me and then I was instructed to sit down and roll up my sleeve while a large syringe approached my arm. My Mother handed the nurse her written consent cautiously for the brand new Salk vaccine. Terror had gripped our parents who were haunted by the stories of children who were stricken suddenly by cramps and fever, and then Polio. It wasn’t that the inoculations hurt so much, but the anticipation was worse than the reality, and the end result was a lollipop to soothe our experience.

The mandatory vaccines were the result of something called Polio. The government had decided that every child in Canada had to be inoculated, and this was not to be the last of it. Once again we would get inoculations, and then those turned into long tables bearing neat rows of cups half filled with a substance similar to bitter orange juice. Each child drank the elixir and returned to class until the next year when we were given dosed sugar cubes.  We baby boomers were lucky enough to live in a time when vaccinations were available, and the only imaginary fault lines running through everyone’s lives after that was fear over Communists, a possible Atomic Blast, and Howdy Doody.

Although we can look back with humour on the inoculation process, it was a deadly serious procedure for those that lived through the height of the polio scare. When Dr. Salk’s miraculous vaccine spelt the end of this hideous disease we could say goodbye to life threatening fevers and once again look forward to summer without the fear of polio–Ray Paquette




From the Carleton Place Canadian– Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum



Three years later, in the late 50s my Mother could not feel her legs from the waist down and they at first thought she had a form of polio. We found out when my sister died she actually had lymphoma on the spine.

My uncle who is not pictured here died at the age of 19 and they blamed it on a vaccine. We will never know why he died so young.


 - Mother and Daughter Stricken With Polio...

Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  06 Sep 1949, Tue,  Page 5

 - Hydro Picnic r :-'' :-'' :-'' r r , . because...

Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  06 Aug 1949, Sat,  Page 7



Doug McCarten–I do indeed remember! Although the polio vaccination came too late for me as I had it at 2 years old! Apparently I was within 24 hrs of paralysis…..when I was getting better, I have a vivid memory of visiting the patients who were in Iron Lungs and talking to them in the mirror attached above their head! The room was lit only by the afternoon sun but with the curtains pulled so the light that did enter was muted….



Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.





Remember Polio?

What Do You Do if You Just Can’t Walk Right In?

Remembering one of the “Tom Sawyer’s” Of Cowansville Quebec



Friday October the 13th– 6:30.. meet in front of the old Leland Hotel on Bridge Street in Carleton Place (Scott Reid’s office) and enjoy a one hour walk with stories of murder mayhem and BOO!.. Some tales might not be appropriate for young ears. FREE!!

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What Do You Do if You Just Can’t Walk Right In?




I am the last one standing.. Me, Robin, Bernice (Bunny) and Arthur Knight- Cowansville Quebec 1958


I was going to write a funny story today but it is just not happening.  After writing about Merrywood on Rideau I felt sad for those who could not walk like everyone else.

My mother lost the use of her legs one snowy New Year’s Eve at a friends home when she was 30. My father thought she had consumed one drink too many, but after years of her fighting to get her legs back, he finally realized it had never really had been the liquour.

As a child I watched them say it was polio over and over. Then she had polio treatments, spinal surgeries and neurological tests slapped on her like a guinea pig. The specialists came one after another from all over the world to try their experiments on her at the former Montreal Rehabilitation Centre on Darlington Ave. and nothing ever worked.

For four years until she died at age 34 she wore black heavy polio leg braces and never gave up. My father even drove her to Oklahoma hoping faith healer Oral Roberts would cure her, only to be turned away as they could not afford all the pay tolls Roberts had on his property for those who visited him. I watched her sit on the hospital stairs each weekend and cry as she attempted to do something she would never do again-walk. But she never gave up and continued to play Glenn Miller tunes on the piano every afternoon in the hospital foyer for the patients– no matter how sad she felt about her future.

One day fluid began to violate her on a daily basis for a few months. Two days before she died in September of 1963 she burned her finger as she ironed my Confirmation dress. Instead of it blistering, a yellowish fluid began oozing from the burn.

She looked at my neighbour, and said calmly,

“Meg, my body is full of the poison now, I am going to die.”

All those years of fighting, all those year of frustration, she  died–just like that, at the age of 34. Years later when my sister Robin died of Lymphoma at the age of 40, the doctors confirmed my mother had actually died of Lymphoma on the spine. Lymphoma is a hard disease to detect, and information in those days was sparse.

The medical staff did not need to tell me what happened to my mother. I already had known as I had figured it out years ago. Yes, the disease with the capital ‘L’ has taken each one of my family, and I am the very last to speak.  At this every second in time I choose to speak the words of a family lost, so they might at least be remembered.

Today is the day you need to hug your family no matter how hard they irritate you. Don’t let the paralysis of anger allow you not to step into another day.  Family is family- the love is always there-embrace them.


Her Favourite Song exactly how she played it on the piano...

Video: Oral Rpberts –This particular boy was investigated by James Randi and found out it was just an act. He actually could walk.




Words by Linda Seccaspina 2013

Remember Polio?


And what about Polio–I believe Canadian Children are no longer vaccinated against this nasty disease. It is NOT wiped out and is still prevalent in 3rd world countries. It is an Oral med and simple to give (no needle) I seem to remember we used to get it at school. All we need is someone to bring it back to North America and will the Government support these crippled children.

from : CBC NEWS – World  May 5 2014 – http://www.cbc.ca/ne…ation-1.2632090

“The international spread of polio to date in 2014 constitutes an extraordinary event and a public health risk to other states for which a co-ordinated international response is essential,” WHO assistant director general Bruce Aylward told reporters.

“Until it is eradicated, polio will continue to spread internationally, find and paralyze susceptible kids.”

This is the first time that the WHO has declared a public health emergency since the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic.

“In Canada, we need high immunization rates to be protected from importing polio, just like we imported measles,” MacDonald said.

“People could literally get on a plane carrying the polio virus, not even necessarily be sick with it and bring it to Canada where we don’t have perfect vaccination rates anymore,” said Dr. Michael Gardam, director of infection prevention and control at the University Health Network in Toronto.

MGJ Smith Carleton Place.com


Polio held a reign of terror for decades. But unless you were born before 1955, polio may seem to be just another ephemeral disease that has been nonexistent for years, but it could come back. Those born before 1955 remember having a great fear of this horrible disease which crippled thousands of once active, healthy children. My mother was first diagnosed with it- but after receiving months of treatment- she was told she did not have it.

This disease had no cure and no identified causes, which made it all the more terrifying. Many people did not have the money to care for a family member with polio. This was one of the reasons the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis was organized. The March of Dimes, the fund raiser headed by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, raised thousands and thousands of dollars to help people care for their polio stricken family members and to aid in the cost of research for a vaccine that would put an end to this misery that affected the lives of so many people.

Since people were no longer in contact with open sewers and other unsanitary conditions which had exposed them to small amounts of the polio virus as infants, when paralysis is rare, the disease grew from a very mild, uncommon occurrence to a terrifying epidemic. In an attempt to control the disease, bewildered health officials reinstituted the usual rules of sanitation which they would later learn had worsened the threat of polio.

They advised against open drains and unscreened windows. Parents were instructed to keep their children well bathed, well rested, well fed, and away from crowds. Bathing suits were locked away in closets, and nobody went to the public pools. When polio struck, movie theatres were shut, camps and schools were closed, drinking fountains were abandoned, draft inductions suspended, and nonessential meetings were cancelled until the epidemic appeared to be over for the time being.


Nobody has ever discovered completely how polio spread. The best evidence suggests that the virus is excreted in the stool and passed through hand to hand or hand to mouth contact by people who do not wash their hands properly or often enough. It was during the first few years of the fifties and many years before then, that health department officials continued to quarantine households, take in-depth histories of everywhere and everyone the patient had come in contact, inspect drains and garbage cans, and in general make it seem as though it was the patient’s own fault that he had the virus. Although keeping track of this contagious disease continued to be of great concern throughout this time, the many health inspectors and visiting nurses could not help but admit that they really did not know exactly what they were looking for or where they might find it.


In conclusion, few realize how greatly polio affected people in society in the early 1950s. Everyone was affected when there was epidemic outbreak. Public places were closed, and people were cut off from contact with one another. People lived in constant fear that they would be next to catch the disease, or worse, one of their children would contract polio.

The lives of polio victims and those who cared for them were changed forever by the impairments that victims of polio suffered. The thought of being paralyzed was what made polio so terrifying. Although other diseases of the era had much higher mortality rates, none had the permanent ramifications that polio did.

Hospital treatment was still hard to come by in some areas, because not all hospitals would accept polio patients. So, many of the infected had to make do with whatever care and equipment that they could find at home. Although many people who won their battle against polio had no after-effects, there were plenty of people who were left paralyzed with little to help them deal with their new lot in life. The sparse range of braces and crutches that existed were expensive, heavy, and quite often painful to use.

The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis was instrumental in helping to pay for the expensive treatment and equipment needed to rehabilitate polio victims. It also funded the research for the development of a cure for polio. These funds paved the way for the improved research techniques and methods of the era carried out by scientists such as Enders, Wellers, Salk, and Sabin to isolate and develop a vaccine against polio. It was not until the development and distribution of the vaccine against polio that people could have a secure sense of hope that they would not fall victim to this paralyzing disease. Once this vaccine proved to be an effective cure, polio was basically wiped out. Those of us lucky enough to live in a time when vaccination is readily available will never know the terror that permeated the lives of so many just a few decades ago.

With files from

Fear of Polio in the 1950s
1997, Beth Sokol


Easter Seals Camp Merrywood (opened 1948) Big Rideau Lake

Easter Seals Camp Merrywood is located on a beautiful peninsula stretching out into Big Rideau Lake. The camp sits on 30 acres of property between Smiths Falls and Perth in Eastern Ontario.

Built in 1948, Camp Merrywood began as a summer camp for kids with polio. Six campers attended in its first year.

The site has 12 buildings including: six camper cabins that can accommodate up to 72 campers per session, a health hut, dining room and lodge, music and theatre building, nature building, specially adapted swimming pool. Merrywood offers a full waterfront program and activities such as sailing, kayaking, canoeing,  and fishing.

Campers also get to experience a variety of camping trips. There are four-day canoe trips to Crotch Lake and one-night trips through the Rideau Canal system.




Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  14 Jul 1955, Thu,  Page 3


Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  14 Jul 1955, Thu,  Page 3