I hadn’t really remembered until I saw a recent news story on TV.

This isn’t my first pandemic.

If you’re a certain age, it’s not yours either.

Remember polio?

I don’t know when it all began, but I can remember as a school-age child not being allowed to go to the swimming pool in the summertime or to the movies or much of anywhere that a crowd gathered.

We didn’t have a fancy name, like social distancing, and we certainly didn’t have the constant news reports. But we knew about polio because our parents were scared to death of polio.

And well they should’ve been. It was deathly and dreadful. Those it didn’t kill, it crippled.

I can remember seeing pictures of iron lungs. We must’ve been to some movies because these things were operating in the news stories and there was no TV. Nobody had ever heard of TV at that time.

In these iron lungs were people who couldn’t breathe, and lots of them were children. Trapped in a terrible metal prison.

As time went on, for several years, we got older and graduated high school and then college, and people we knew were still being plagued with polio.

My fiancé and I started planning a wedding, and my five good girlfriends were all going to be bridesmaids.

I had already been a bridesmaid for a couple of those same good buddies.

One of those couples who married before us were already the parents of an adorable baby boy.

The girls all had their dresses — matching ballerina-length aquamarine embroidered organdy.

My mother, who loved me enough to do that, had made them all.

But not mine. We traveled to Dallas, to Sangers, I think, to pick out my white embroidered organdy. Also ballerina length. It was the style at that time.

Then disaster came.

My married bridesmaid called with the bad news. She couldn’t be in the wedding.

Her baby had polio.

The wedding went on, and we made a trip by their house on the way to the honeymoon.

The baby got better and was left with only a weakened arm.

I went with her, days and days, while they invented ways to use physical therapy to strengthen that arm. She held him as he picked clothespins off a line. We put them back on and he picked them off again.

To some extent, all that therapy worked.

Some of the people with whom I went to college had been through polio with no bad effects.

This coronavirus doesn’t seem to leave any physical effects, so far.

But it’s jogging the memories of a lot of us who’ve been around long enough to be pretty scared, just the same.

Cathy Gillentine is a Daily News columnist. She may be reached at cathy.gillentine@comcast.net.


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(2) comments

Bailey Jones

We're lucky to live at a time when so many diseases are preventable, and treatable.

Paula Flinn

Yes, I remember the polio scare in the 40’s and early 50’s. My mother had the dog and I both trained to “not step off the curb” of our front lawn. When it rained we were told the gutters filled with “polio water.” If you had known my mother, you would have minded her! The little boy across the street had paralytic polio. His parents had his spine fused. It was a very scary disease until the vaccine was available.

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