Bit of History: The Great Flu

Bit of History: The Great Flu

A century ago, in October 1918, The Great War was coming to an end. Across Europe, though, soldiers and civilians alike were falling ill and dying within hours or days. Though it most likely did not originate in Spain, people started calling it the Spanish Flu because the first news of it came from Spain, a nation uninvolved in the war. When the disease hit New York, many suspected it to be a poison gas attack, as victims suffocated and died. But this was no act of war. It was an act of nature.

The flu crossed the country in just over a week. In Seattle, nearly two thousand people collapsed and died. At first, down south in Vancouver, we told ourselves that we were safe; we lived in a clean city with fresh air and water. Just eat healthy, sleep with your windows open, and gargle with peroxide. But Vancouver’s city health officer and the Army medical officer were gravely concerned. They appealed to the City Council to shut the city down, to close everything but restaurants. Accordingly, doors closed. The streets were emptied.

They were one day too late.

To read more, pick up a copy of the November 2018 issue at any of these locations, or view the digital archive copy here.

Pat Jollota retired from the Los Angeles Police Department and came to Vancouver to find a new career in historic preservation. She was curator of education at the Clark County Historical Museum for 22 years, while almost concurrently serving for 20 years on the Vancouver City Council.

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