Chester Martin Remembers The Bad Old Days For Kids In Chattanooga

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Only "yesterday" the children of our town were beset with a long list of childhood diseases which have gradually, and gladly, gone away. Or they are so rare that they do not make the headlines anymore.  Seldom does an entire school system have to close due to a whooping cough or measles epidemic. But in my day we could expect to have "mumps" by "this" age, and "chicken-pox" by "that." If you had not had chicken-pox by a certain age, then you could expect to have some other malady before the onset of something worse.

There was an entire rigmarole for what could be expected "next," and "German" measles was especially feared. Fortunately, if a major epidemic did not ensue, the worst effect from most of these diseases was the dreaded sentence of having to spend several days in bed!

But then there was POLIO! That was the great scourge of my generation! It would strike anyone - mainly children - totally out of the blue, and mainly in summer. It could cripple you instantly - for life - to be spent in an "iron lung" breathing machine. We would hear of this terrible disease  suddenly breaking out in a distant city and it would send shudders throughout the nation. These polio epidemics inevitably led to swimming-pool closings - as at our Warner Park and Lake Winnie. (Lake Winnie's pool was where the carousel is today). Any place where children normally congregated was closed. Our mothers would be terrified, clearly, and restrict our movements to our own neighborhood. Movie theaters were also on the list of dangerous places, so there were few "safe" places for kids. Some feeble efforts to have children's programs on the radio were made, but  the ones I heard were not very entertaining. (The age of TV cartoons was still far in the future!)  Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of NYC read the "funnies" to the local kids of New York.

The big Polio scares lasted all through the 1940's, 1950's, and into the early 1960's, when at long last a CURE was discovered! A truly great Jewish physician, Dr. Jonas Salk, made the astounding discovery and oversaw its FREE distribution nationwide! No bureaucratic heel-dragging prevented its immediate dissemination to the public, and long lines formed here in Chattanooga at the end of Kilmer Street, near the entrance to Memorial hospital. A trailer-type clinic was set up there specially for giving out this new and miraculous wonder-drug. My wife and I went as newlyweds and remember the absolute simplicity of taking the serum:  just a small lump of sugar in a paper cup containing Dr. Salk's newfound cure! Why hadn't someone thought this up sooner? Polio was wiped out immediately, and, although there have been very small outbreaks of it since, it is a disease of the past! Dr. Salk could have become a multi-billionaire if he had wanted, but chose to GIVE his great discovery to the American people! Let's not forget him!

At a much earlier age than mine, even, Yellow Fever was equally eradicated by some good old American Ingenuity!

(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at )

Chester Martin
Chester Martin

Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meets Nov. 6

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. on  Tuesday, Nov. 6 , at the Signal Mountain Public Library.  The speaker for the day will be Linda Mines, a well-known historian within the Chattanooga area and the official historian for Chattanooga and Hamilton County.  She is the First Vice-Regent of the Chief John Ross Chapter of the Daughters ... (click for more)

What Was That Stone Arch Halfway Up Lookout Mountain?

As a child in the early- to mid-70s the majority of our summer vacations were to Tennessee - a stop in Chattanooga then on to Gatlinburg.  We always visited the Incline, Ruby Falls and Rock City.    On the way up Lookout Mountain, I’m not sure of the road, there was a stone/cement type monument along the roadway with what looked to be a tongue sticking out ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Red Wolves SC To Build Soccer-Specific Stadium For 2020 Season

Chattanooga Red Wolves Soccer Club is building a state-of-the-art, soccer-specific facility, where the team will host home games beginning in 2020. For its inaugural season, the club will play at Chattanooga Christian School’s David Stanton Field in 2019.   David Stanton Field seats 3,500, and the club plans to install additional temporary seating allowing up to approximately ... (click for more)

Case Against Soddy Daisy High ROTC Instructor Dismissed After Judge Sends Case To Grand Jury

The road rage case against a Soddy Daisy ROTC instructor was dismissed on Wednesday after a judge on Monday had sent the case to the Grand Jury. An order was issued on Wednesday signed by District Attorney Neal Pinkston and attorney Lee Davis that "no billed" the aggravated assault charge against 47-year-old Timothy Lee Hodges. Attorney Davis said, " Following a hearing in ... (click for more)

Drink Up, Chattanooga

I attended the meeting to discuss the placement of the sewage treatment plant at the Cambridge Center in Ooltewah today. My problem with the meeting (aka) dog and pony show, is that the meeting started out with the agenda of the Ooltewah Community Council.  After living in this area for 45+ years I have never heard of this group.  I would like for someone to answer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Dear Faux Pelini

It has been my experience that of all the tribes and herds of different people on earth, sports writers are among the funniest people of all. Oh, there isn’t anything real sexy about Villanova beating Georgetown or a baseball player hitting for the cycle. Now, if a player hits a single, double, triple and homer in that order, that’s “a natural cycle,” and that is kind of fun to ... (click for more)