Friday, March 18, 2011

Flu Anxiety

I have two letters from 1918 that discuss flu anxiety. They called it "La grippe" back then.

This was the era of the infamous flu epidemic (and the end of WWI). Flu anxiety wasn't new to these years: the Nicholson Family letters reveal that anxiety over health issues and the FLU was part and parcel of family existence back then.

They didn't have 24 hour media to make the most of these dangers, but they did have daily and weekly deaths to remind people that life was fragile.

Here's a letter from October 24, 1918, right before armistace, from a Mrs. Rothney, wife of an ET school inspector.

Dear Mrs. Nicholson,

I hope you are all keeping clear of this Spanish flu. Hasn't it been an awful time? Nothing going on here except people dying - and the church bells ringing for funerals - and hearses going down in processions.

I have most of the children's winter sewing done. I am making Isabel a brown plush winter coat...I got her some white furs so she is going to be swell this winter. I have done a lot of sewing and knitting lately. Our knitting club had a contest the month of September and we knit 312 pairs. I knit seven pairs. Some knit more. We'll have a fine lot of stockings for the Christmas packages. I guess we will not need to knit many more socks by the way the war is going now....

Then I have a second letter from November 29th, after Armistace. Margaret is writing to Edith..

Dear Edith,

I think you had better get another bottle of tonic. So here is the number. Just go to the pharma and order it at once. Noticed that you were better when you were taking it. And get the pills for Flora and self.....

The picture above is of the letter, with the prescription? attached. The number I guess. Too bad I can't see what it was she was prescribed. Clearly, she's been sick a while and Margaret is so worried she is bossing around her grown daughter.

It is interesting to note that the Pharmacy is in Westmount. It is likely Edith roomed around there. She loved Westmount and lived there all her life when not at Tighsolas. And yet she was a poorish spinster!

The Sunday hours of the pharmacy are interesting. I assume they still had the Lord's Day Act in 1918. (Established in 1906). I guess pharmacies were exempt for obvious reasons.... but those are long hours for a pharmacy. In my day, pharmacies weren't open at night. I recall in the 1980's, when one of my kids were sick, we had to go to TMR, I think, to find the one all night pharmacy in the West of Montreal. We lived in a burb 40 minutes out of Montreal.

I wonder if the pharmacy had a soda fountain and if this soda fountain was open for business on Sundays. Would seem a great thing to do on Sundays, congregate at the soda fountain and have a cherry phosphate or whatever.