Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Spanish Flu in Suttons Bay

Jumping ahead again in Gramma Lu's memoirs. The train wreck happened in late winter/early spring of 1918. This was a very very busy year in the life of the family.  The youngest, Virgil, had his tonsils out (behind his father's back, because Fred thought all doctors were crooks.)  The oldest son, Orville, had gone off to war in March.  Fred got a job in Suttons Bay, and Lula finally prevailed upon him to get a house and bring the family there. The hardships of city life in Traverse City, combined with the hardships of the war, were almost too much for the family to handle.

Suttons Bay was heaven on earth as far as Lula was concerned -- however, that first year they were still in poverty.  Grace didn't want to live there, didn't want to go to school there. Fred had to go down to Muskegon to find war work in a factory -- taking second son Ralph's savings with him for expenses. By winter the family ended up settled in a huge barn of a house that was only partly finished.  Lula was having a hard time even clothing the children. And she was beginning to suspect she was pregnant again.

Then the flu epidemic kicked in....

The Winter of Flu (1918-1919)

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

That was the winter the influenza was so rampant everywhere.  It finally hit Suttons Bay.  Many were down with it. Muskegon was peppered with it. Maud LaGuire lost her second husband with it there in Muskegon.  She now had seven children. 
Fred came home.  He was sick with a fever and a cold, he called it. Before we knew what was happening, some of the children came down with it. When I sent for the doctor, he came and asked Fred, "How long have you had it?" 

Fred said, "I haven't got it not the flu. Just a cold."

There he sat, a bright fever spot on each cheek, and running eyes and nose. He would not go to bed in daytime, but sat up all day and coughed and sneezed and cussed.

A nun  at the convent died, and was burried the same night, as they all tried to keep this killer from spreading. Mama wrote and told of a whole family who had lived on a farm. When neighbors noticed there was no stir about there for several days, they investigated.  They found the entire family of seven dead, but one boy -- almost dead -- and the cattle and horses starving in the barn.  That is just an idea of how that dreadful disease was playing havoc.

It was not long till four of the children and I were in bed with "flu" as it is called.  Ralph has heard of something called naptha, I believe, to take to ward off the influenza. We kept it in one of the coldrooms upstairs as he was told to keep it away from fires, and each day we'd go up and take a few drops of the stuff on a spoonful of sugar. It was like liquid fire, whatever it was.  But we swallowed it bravely, and perhaps it helped keep the flu in a rather mild state when we did get it.

Before long we were in quarantine. Fred, the three boys, two girls and me.  Fred got better, fortunately, and Ralph did not get the disease, but they had their hands full caring for the girls and I and the two boys upstairs. It was quite a task I knew, but we were real ill for a few days with sore throat, headache, back ache, and fever. 

The doctor left some tablets for us to take and a bottle of whisky. Naturally I, being a teetotler, got none of that, nor did the girls, but the boys and Fred had "slings" made of it. I think Fred was glad of my total abstainance then.

We had no baths, and were lucky if we got our faces and hands washed once a day. Ralph and dad did keep us warm, and feed us pretty well when we were able to eat.

One pain-wracked day followed another. The doctor was so very busy with so many cases, he couldn't come often.  Often all the sleep he got was in his car or sleigh, while his driver took him to another case.

Eventually we all began to improve and in a couple of weeks were up again.  I made chest protectors from old blankets for all the youngsters to wear and soon we were let out of quarantine. The health officer told us to spread our bed clothes out well on chairs, etc., and we all parked around that good kitchen stove while the officers fumed something upstairs.  I think it was the next day we all stayed upstairs while they fumigated below.  They did a thorough job, but it has been proven since that fumigation does no good. 

Schools were shut down. No one went to the stores unless necessary, and could not congregate about public places.

There was a back room upstairs with a cook stove in it, that some school children had had to cook on at one time, and we'd build a fire there and gather round and read, sew, crochet or play games. Sometimes make tea and toast or a light lunch. This we designated the "Cozy Room," and that just defines it. How we all enjoyed it. I'd advise everyone with a family to have a cozy room way upstairs someplace.

We'd found a large pile of ladies magazines in the house and they helped pass many an hour that would otherwise have been lonely and monotonous. We'd read the stories and recipes and sometimes try them out in the kitchen downstairs.  We'd save crochet patterns and copy some.  The girls and I did quite a lot of this pastime that winter. Only draw back, we couldn't afford much thread for that purpose.

When Fritz was well enough, he and Ralph got work in a camp farther north. So we were eating well again at least. But one night they came home and took baths and Fritz put his dirty shirt on again unnecessarily -- and came to bed with me and told me they had acquired bugs while working at camp!  Ye gods! What next?  I then had to fight body lice for several weeks before we could be rid of them.  And to make life more interseting, Dudley got a relapsed flu, and we were quarantined again!

After about a week of that, he was better -- able to get up and the health officer came to take down the sign. I said, "Mr. H., you might as well leave it up, as two more are sick again." He did. Queenie and Virgil were down again with flu!

Well, carrying their meals up to them in my condition, weakened by the flu myself, caring for them best I could and fighting gray backs was pretty exhausting but I kept at it. I don't know how.  Glad that we were all alive; that was a lot to be thankful for.

We had to get permission from headquarters for Orville to send home part of his army pay to help out at home.  He was perfectly willing to do this, I believe, and I'm sure I do not know how we would have gotten through that winter otherwise.

I knew by now the new baby was not going to be welcome. Grace had said, "If there's a nother baby born here, I'll leave home." Which she did not mean. Orville had written to Ralph that he didn't see why a man that couldn't support the ones he had wanted to keep on having more, etc. 

There was a lot of friction, a good deal of coziness and companionship and quite a lot of worry and fear that winter!  Would the flu epidemic never end? Would Orville have to go across to fight?!!

No, that was decided. He would not have to go overseas! We were told the war was over.  The armistice had been signed, had it not?  Orville had been sent to Newport News, VA.  Worked there in an office during the year, taking his training in Signal Corps.  He was a good soldier. 

Ralph had wanted so much to go, but being in the accident, and having one poor eye, he was denied that priviledge. And he smarted under the result. He wanted to be in uniform as many other boys were.  He made every effort to get in and finally was issued his questionaire. This elated him very much, but then came the Armistice and again he was disappointed. But at least he had received his questionaire.

I was very well aware that we could not keep up payments on the piano under present conditions, and called the music house up and told them so, so the children were deprived of their piano as well as their organ, much as I hated this.  Another week of relapses and the doctor came. Queenie was still in bed. 

"Isn't she up yet?" he asked. 

"No," I said, "she isn't able to be up."

"Well," he said, "let her sit up an hour or so, we can say she's up. We want to open up the schools and can't as long as we have any flu patients."

I said, "OK, she'll sit up tomorrow."

And he offered "There are tricks in all trades, you know."

Virgil was up, but doctor had said his appendix was in bad condition. I strongly suspect that the youngsters did not have the food they properly needed, though I always cooked food well and baked our own bread.  But one quart milk a day for eight! 

Queenie improved from then on and children were soon answering the call of the school bell again. The flu was on the decline. It had been a very mild winter, with only a few real cold days. Such a winter usually brings on a great deal of sickness.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Ralph's Trainwreck - 1918

This week I skip ahead a little in time from the Gramma Lu's Babies memoir. This is from a bigger memoir she wrote, which I have been slowly scanning -- over 500 pages of densely written script. I don't want to handle the musty original paper too much, so I haven't read it, but I see bits and pieces as I go.  It's hard to read her handwriting, but now and then a little bit will intrigue me, and I'll sit down and keep reading...discovering a new bit of family history as I go.

It was mid-March of 1918, and the family may have been living in Traverse City at the time.

Postcard showing a snow plow from the Grand Travers area circa 1915.

The Train Wreck

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

Orville had not gone to war yet, but came home to stay a while to take shots for boils, etc., before he could answer his country's call. Virgil's tonsils were bothering him more, and he was getting really deaf in one ear. What to do! I did not know. There had never at that time been an operation in our family, and they were considered at that time dangerous. Something comparatively new. Fred surely didn't approve and I surely was worried about my little boy.  He didn't take any interest in school, nor play.

One afternoon, Orville was home waiting for his call and all at once it seemed that I lost interest in my work -- which was very unusual -- it just seemed that the world was stopping in its rotation or something was radically wrong.  Such a feeling I had I couldn't explain.  Orville was very restless and soon started pacing the floor; finally said, "I feel awful. I don't know what is the matter. I can't sit still a minute. Just like something was wrong."

I said, "I feel funny too.  I can't settle down to anything." 

However, I had to get supper for us all. The children came home and ate and went about their several activities, while we waited for the ax to fall, as it were.

It did.  As I've said, Fred and Ralph were working in Suttons Bay on the railroad.  Winter had arrived in earnest and they were having their annual struggle to get thru to the rest of the world. Though we did not know about this at that time. After supper, a small boy came with a note saying that Fred wanted me to meet the train when it came in.

Well, it just happened that I was at the store to buy a few groceries when it came, and the children did not know where I'd gone, and when I returned to the house, Orville was nearly distracted.

But we set out at once to go to the depot, where the TCL&M came in, about a mile or more.  I remember it was very cold and I was not dressed for such cold weather.  My coat then was one that had been given to me, and was wholly inadequate for such severe weather. I don't suppose Orville was warm either, as none of us had clothes enough.

As we sped along as fast as we could walk, I wondered what could be wrong.  I believe the note said Ralph was hurt.  We should have gotten it in the early p.m., but here it was after six.  I don't know why the delay. When we got there, the train had been in and gone for hours. 

The whole town had been excited about the snow plow wreck on the TCL&M, and it appeared we were the only ones who had not known about it.  I was told afterwards that about half the town had been there to meet it when it arrived, bringing the dead and wounded of the wreck.  No wonder Orlo and I had felt so vacant and as if catastrophe was imminent. Don't tell me there's nothing to telepathy!  I thought on the way coming pehraps Ralph had broken his leg in getting off the train.  He had broken his leg indeed!  Such a thing as a wreck had not entered my mind. We went into the deserted depot then to the freight depot to see if there was anyone there.  The man there told us the conductor was on the couch outside. We went to him.

Orville said, "They told us my brother was hurt. Where is he?"

The conductor was almost weeping, he was so overwrought.  It seems he was on the train wreck but not hurt.

He said, "His father's with im," as Orville and I stood gaping. "He's in the hospital. He has a broken leg."  I began twisting my hands together, and the poor man finished.  "There was a wreck!"

Then he turned and fled, could say no more, I guess. While Orville and I looked at each other in horror and consternation.  How badly was Ralphie hurt?  Was dad hurt too, how bad was the wreck? Where?  When? etc.

Orville said, "Ma, what'll we do?"

"We better go to the hospital, I think," I said between chattering teeth.

I'd never been in one of those dreaded institutions as a patient. They meant suffering, homesickness, and death to me.  But we must go! 

Orville said, "We'll get a cab, ma. It's too far to walk out there.  We'll go home first and tell the youngsters."

So we walked the mile or more back home, where we told the bad news -- what we knew of it -- to the children.  We felt hungry and ate a little while waiting for a taxi. The meal consisted of bean soup as I recall. I was almost ready to collapse, but knew I must keep up. The children were silent, scared, almost out of their wits, I think, though they said nothing.

We arrived at hospital. Everything seemed confusion and excitement.  That remote hospital didn't have a whole mass of wrecked folks to care for often in those days.

Doctors were hustling here and there with bloody white aprons and nurses, frightened but efficient, went silently here and there.  Fred met us almost a wreck himself -- and he told us Ralph had a badly broken limb. Two men had been killed, one outright, another died as soon as they brought him to the hospital. Four other young men were in the same condition that Ralph was. Eight men had been injured when the engine had plowed through the snow plow. One fellow had been able to be taken home.

Finally they let us in to where Ralph was a helpless child, badly shaken. I went up and kissed him. It was all I could do. Several Drs. and nurses came to care for him at last. Fred and I stayed in the room.

One doctor said to me, "Are you a relative?"

I said, "I'm his mother."

We thought we'd stay in there while they attended him, but Fred got ill at his stomach and had to leave the room, so I went too. Guess the doctors were glad we went out. I felt relieved that Ralph's hurt was no worse. Though a compound fracture is plenty bad. We went to a little waiting room where Fred nearly fainted. A kind nurse brought us each a cup of coffee. I believe Fred had not eaten that p.m. 

I got the gruesome tale afterwards, how Ralph had been hung up by his broken leg for three hours on the head light of the engine before they could cut him loose. The men had taken turns holding him up so his weight would not be all dependant on that injured leg! A gruelling task for these men and a terrible ordeal for Ralph. They gave him some whisky, which I suppose helped him to endure.

At long last, he was resting, his leg set, and as we could do nothing for him, we went home. Orville had gone home earlier to be with the other kids. 

Fred asked a man, a father of one of the other injured boys, to stay with us that night. So I fixed him up a bed best I could on a cot. Bedding was not too plentiful at our house, I am free to admit. 

In later years, when auto accidents are as frequent as can be, we have sort of trained ourselves to expect something of that kind almost anytime.  But when and if they come, the shock is probably just as great. What made this trial harder to bear for me was the fact that I had scolded Ralph the last time he was home and given him a good slapping on his back -- he was then just 18 --for something he had done that he should not have done.  I don't remember what his offense was, but probably cursing, as he was getting to be a good imitator of his father in that respect. However, if he had been killed in this snow plow wreck, I never would have forgiven myself for reprimanding him.

The way we are, I guess. We punish because we think we must, then are filled with remorse when something happens.

The poor boy was in the hospital over two months. I walked out to see him as often as I could. He suffered intensly, and when he was better, made a great hit with the nurses. Have I mentioned that he had grown up to a very handsome young man, even though his one eye was crossed?  I thought nothing of walking the mile and a half to see him.

The wreck made the papers, and even though those issues are missing from the archive for the Traverse City Record Eagle, small versions of the story appeared in the Lansing State Journal, and this article below in the Port Huron Times.

It doesn't mention the names of most of the men, only the first killed.  But now we can add at least two names of the men involved: Ralph Stanley LaGuire and Fred LaGuire.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Gramma Lu's Babies - 4

This week we come to the era of the picture I've been using for illustration -- with baby Gracie being born.

Just a note about names: when Lula wrote her memoirs (and so far I've found over 500 pages of it, densely handwritten) she generally changed the names slightly.  "Dougie" of course, is Dudley.  She generally called Gracie "Greta." And her husband Fred was usually called "Fritz."  In this memoir she didn't go further: surnames are the same, and I have found many of the people she mentions in the census for 1900 or 1910.  However, in her much longer memoir that covers her whole life, she changes much more. Still obvious if you know the real names, though, (LaGuire becomes LaGrawn, Wanamaker becomes Shoemaker, etc.)

(Previous chapters: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3)

The Babies God Gave Me

Handwritten manuscript by Lula J. Wanamaker LaGuire 

Chapter 4

An Adventist Church stood between our house (one belonging to the Wynkoops) and the store.  And when  I could get ready, the children and I attended church services.  The Adventists proved to be real friends.

When I discovered I was to have another child, I was just plain angry, it seemed to me that I needed a little respite. I had more than I could do to keep up my work, and was far from well.  It just did not seem fair to me nor my babies I already had, and it surely kept Fred's nose on the grindstone!

I did not cry as I did before my second one, but became rather cross at night when I lay on my back and tried to turn over. It felt as if my back was spiked to the bed and I was tearing myself loose.  The ordeal of turning over was fierce!  But I had to do it. I didn't even see a doctor.  None was handy and I supposed this was just another facet of pregnancy.

So I endured.  My lungs felt compressed and I knew I needed more fresh air and that's when I sent for a remedy to sell.  Mother's Salve and other remedies.  And when Fred could stay with our little boys an hour or so, I went  out peddling.  I did not make much money but I did get a release from baby tending and earned a few prizes.

I was very strict with my boys, too much so. But when I told one to do or not do something I expected immediate obedience -- if not they got what "paddy gone the drum".  I guess I was getting to be a scold, and one day one of those nice Advent women told  me, as I was telling how hard it was to make the youngsters mind -- how they would run away and what a great worry it all was to me -- she said gently but firmly,

"You can be too severe with children."

I said, "One has to make them obey."

And she repeated: "You can be too severe with children."

Perhaps she'd heard me yelling at them.

Well, I considered what she said and it helped me to be more lenient. I was obsessed with the idea that if I didn't exact implicit obedience they would get into a great deal of trouble as temptations and dangers were everywhere.  The best way I knew was to demand obedience. I know I was too strict, but I really didn't know any other way.  I prayed that God would help me to rule my children with love rather than a rod.

But each day brought more cares and burdens, it seemed.

Fred got a man to build a small coop and I thought I'd raise chickens and help that way, although we got quite a number of eggs, my chicken venture petered out eventually.

Fortunately Mrs. Noris was a midwife and we engaged her to care for my three, in my next confinement.  We all wanted a girl this time, and had to have a hired girl for a while.  Fred hired a horse and cutter and went about six miles and brought her back. she was a pretty dark-haired young woman but crippled as she had a dislocated hip. She was a good worker.  Her name was Ada, and little Dougie, who was talking now, liked her.  That was a help.

He called her Lady, as he thought that was what we meant when we said "Ada."  Some would have said the name Lady didn't fit her, as she was rather wild when she went to dances and even got drunk sometimes.

She behaved while at our house however. Even when Fred offered her a drink once, she refused it. I sure appreciated that. Though I certainly was angry at Fred for offering her a drink and tempting her.  But I guess she knew her limits.

Mrs. Noris came on the coldest night in that very cold winter of 1904 and delivered a lovely baby girl for me.  A good neighbor, Mrs. Crane cared for -- washed and dressed -- our first girl.

I was awfully sick for a while, but it didn't last too long, and Mrs.  Noris was competent.

We were all glad we had a girl.  How little Ralph hopped over to the store and Post Office the next day and announced gaily and happily:

"We've got a sister!"

He used to jump like a little kangaroo when he wanted to tell good news. Orvie did his share of informing neighbors, tho I suppose the news had gotten around before our little men were awake.

I know I made little Gracie Genevieve's clothes, but it is a strange fact that I can only remember one little dress of percale, with narrow stripes and beads in a delicate blue that my mother had sent cloth for.  Though I'm sure she wore the white launsdale cambric ones I had made for Orvie, and all three boys had worn. Baby dresses were still long, but not as long as formerly, thank goodness.

How we did used to swaddle our poor kids up in long skirts, dressed and pinning blankets. And when baby wet, unless it was well padded with two or three diapers, all it's clothes were wet!

Rubber pants had not come into use at that time -- what a boon they have been since.  Altho I think it is cruel to keep them on babies all the time, when one travels with an infant -- these rubber diapers are a blessing.  I never had any for my youngsters.  Nor any such thing as a rubber sheet. We got along as best we could in those days and if I did not have conveniences like play pens and high cribs, plastic bottles and many modern helps, neither did my friends and neighbors. But mothers could keep their babies clean and sweet smelling if they really cared, and many did too.

Orvie had reached the manly age of six and he was a manly little fellow too.  He had a playmate that altho he was only about eight years old, he smoked a pipe.  Had been taught to by his father and uncles. He would not let my boys have any of his tobacco, but Orvie thought that if he could smoke, why couldn't he!  Fred was an inveterate smoker. Tobacco was always around the house.  I really don't know where Orvie obtained the weed, but as I missed him and started looking for him one day, I discovered him out behind the chicken coop.  He was leaning against it as he could hardly stand and was sick as any little boy ever was who tried his first smoke.

I believe he thought he was dying!  When he was thru vomiting he came to the house and for a wonder his mother had sense enough not to spank him.  I knew  he had been punished a great plenty.  I think he didn't try again for many years.
He has learned to smoke and broken off many times since, but at this writing he does not use the filthy weed.

I wish I could remember more of my children's smart or cute sayings. But only  a few still linger in my memory.

When Ralphie learned that his brother Dougie had his father's middle name and Orvie had his daddy's first name as his middle name, he felt sort of slighted -- so I told him about the Great explorer, Henry M. Stanley, and he was pleased, little Ralph, as his first name is "Stanley."

Looking elated he said, "Well, I'm glad someone is named after me!"

At one time when the two boys were yet little, a window by the head of the bed where dad and Orvie slept became broken, letting in too much fresh air.  As we couldn't get a glass at once to repair it, Orvie and his daddy turned and slept with their heads at the foot of the bed for a night or two.  When I asked them if they would be warm enough that way, Orvie, about 2 1/2 then, spoke up and said:

"I'll be alright, won't I papa, if I leep with my head to yours and my heels -- wrong side out!"

No doubt thinking he had made a very good choice of words.

As I recall other cute things I'll try to record them.

Our girl had dark hair and big  blue eyes, as all the boys had at first.  Orvie was now a real light-haired blond while Ralphie's hair was slightly darker, almost a red -- not quite.  Dougie also was a golden haired blond -- Greta's hair always remained dark.  All beautiful children and not just to my eyes, either! 

If I had only had time to play with them and talk to them, I would have enjoyed them more.  But with a very demanding husband and three meals to get on time, and four little huskies to care for, I did not seem to have time for my children as I should have had.  Between worrying about my work which never seemed to be caught up and Fred's queer ways and the boys running off every chance they got, I was in a fair way to lose my mind, I thought.

Once said to a neighbor that I was almost frantic with so many worries and health not half good.

She said, "You can be thankful they are little and you can keep track of them most of the time. When they are grown up and you don't know where they are or what they are doing then, you will know what worry really is."

It did not seem possible to me that I could have any more troubles than at the time I was carrying, and I must say after many years that woman was mistaken as far as my youngsters were concerned, altho I have found many different kinds of hectic situations with their many and varied heart aches and suspense.  My children did not cause me more worries when they became young men and women. They were thoughtful, smart and quite well-behaved, not even committing the minimum of depredations. Tho, of course they did some things that I did not approve of, being natural human beings.

So perhaps those spankings did some good after all.  However I would be more satisfied and at peace with my conscience if I had skipped the whippings.  A good spank on the place where it did the most good on their little bottoms, was permissible and did help to keep them tractable, and the act of crying keeps things clear, nad perhaps moms are excusable.

I hope so anyway.  

Continue Reading - Chapter 5 (Next week)