By Ann Burruss
Photo by Jack Cast
One Saturday night in 1946, I spent the night with my friend Margaret. She was the chaplain’s daughter. We were probably in the 5th or 6th grade and lived in Ft. Benning, Georgia. Her dad told me the next morning that I had to go home because Margaret was very sick and would not be going to Sunday school. I was very scared and so did not go that day either.
I was not actually quarantined, but could not go to the movies because Margaret was diagnosed with polio. I visited Margaret when she was transferred to Warm Springs and in an iron lung, but only once. Most of the time we corresponded through letters.
She was so cheerful that it seemed that she would get well. When we moved from Ft. Benning, we continued to “talk” through letters until she could no longer even dictate. Margaret was the first friend I had who did not live to be a teenager.
My mother worked very hard to make sure we did not panic about polio, as she did about everything. But I recall that we could not use the swimming pool because of the polio scare.
I remember very well the sugar-coated medicine – the Salk vaccine- that was administered by dissolving a “sugar cube” which had been coated with the pink liquid in our mouths. That must have been in the early 50’s when all children got it.
Somewhere along the line, there was gamma globulin, but I do not recall when or who received the shots. I am not sure if it was a preventative or a treatment.
Ann Burruss is a retired educator. She is a mother, grandmother, sister and aunt. Her volunteer work with the Literacy Volunteers of Gloucester is one of the many activities she is involved with in the community.