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

John S. Elder Was Early Settler At Ooltewah

The Elders were among Tennessee's earliest pioneers and were well acquainted with Davy Crockett. John S. Elder and his nephew, Robert S. Elder, made their way to Hamilton County at an early date. The family traces back to Samuel Elder, who in April 1796 paid $200 for 150 acres in the "County of Greene Territory of the United States of America South ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Genealogical Society To Meet Feb. 6 At Walden Town Hall

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the Walden Town Hall, 1836 Taft Hwy. The meeting begins with refreshments, followed by a brief business meeting and program. In preparation for the Signal  Mountain Centennial, which takes place in 2019, Jim Douthat, a widely recognized historian and member of the Society, will deliver ... (click for more)

Ivy Johnson, 23, And Cordarrius Johnson, 26, Shot Early Sunday Morning On Lillian Lane

Ivy Johnson, 23, And Cordarrius Johnson, 26, were shot early Sunday morning.   Chattanooga Police were notified at 4:39 a.m. of two people arriving at a local hospital with gunshot wounds. Upon arrival, police spoke with the two victims who were suffering from non-life threatening gunshot wounds. The victims arrived at the hospital via personal vehicle.   ... (click for more)

From Green Window Shutters To Forks And Spoons, Mount Vernon Restaurant Up For Auction

From the green wooden window shutters to the forks, knives and spoons, the landmark Mount Vernon Restaurant is up for auction. Marc Gravitt, of Gravitt Auction, said there will be an online auction starting Thursday morning and running through Saturday at noon. It will be handled as a "staggered close," he said. The first item will go first, then the second 30 seconds later, ... (click for more)

DACA Or Amnesty To Become The Majority?

As we have the political drama that we see in D.C. let’s be honest about what DACA is all about. We understand as the liberal policies of abortion, dependency on the government and an anti-American globalist / progressive agenda that many have come to realize these policies no longer represent their core beliefs and have left a certain party. Without an influx of new dependency ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What’s The ‘Super’ Done?

The headline on Jan. 10 in the Times Free Press read, “Report shows Hamilton County students still lagging behind Tennessee peers.” In smaller type underneath, the sub-head added, “Less than 33 percent of county elementary, middle school students read at grade level.” Then, just seven days later, this on Friday, the same newspaper bannered, “Hamilton County Schools superintendent ... (click for more)