By Dorothy Erickson

Well, it is a fact that history, given enough time, repeats itself.

We are seeing that happening today.

Measles. Now we are seeing what we haven’t seen for a long time: a pretty vigorous outbreak.

Now that I am approaching my 92nd year, looking back to the time when I was growing up and going to school in Gilroy in the 1930s, I pretty well ran the gamut of childhood maladies.

Every time I didn’t show up in school, our school nurse, Marie Clark, I remember her well, arrived at our door. All 5 feet tall and easily 300 pounds with a booming voice she asked, “Dorothy sick again?”

Her most notable action was when she tacked on the wall next to our front door the dreaded red “quarantined” sign that ghastly warning: Do not enter. As I recall it was about 18 inches square and I was mortified. No one could come in, Mom spent a lot of time behind the screen door as relatives and friends stood back far enough so as not to breathe any air coming from inside where I was so sick.

I remember vividly having measles, a horrible burning rash all over most of my body. I had to wear my mother’s dark glasses as one’s eyes could be damaged. All blinds and curtains had to cover the windows to darken the rooms.

I can’t help wondering about present day TVs (we didn’t have them back in the 1930s) they are pretty bright. I recall spending a great deal of time soaking in hot water in the bathtub trying to reduce the fiery itch. Mom used a lot of baking soda — unfortunately, it was such a short time relief.

Chicken Pox. Now that was really horrible (another quarantine sign). High fever and much larger pustules than measles over much of my face and body. I vividly remember Mom loudly tell me “Don’t scratch — you’ll be scarred for life.” Well, I guess she scared the hell out of me as fortunately, no scars. Again the frequent soakings in the tub and a high fever.

I remember one day telling Mom that my throat and face hurt. She felt my face and jaw, which was swollen and she said, “Oh, oh, maybe you are getting mumps.” To prove her point she gave me a teaspoon of vinegar. Oh, my God! That was the most startling pain. I recall wailing, “Why did you give me that?” Well, she proved her diagnosis. I had the mumps; so painful. Don’t ever do that to your child.

In the early 1960s, all four of my kids had mumps at the same time. Like a house full of overgrown chipmunks and in varying degrees of pain. No sleep day and night and a lot of homemade chicken soup.

When some elderly member in the family “passed on” I didn’t understand the mechanics of death. My elders were very quiet about it; talked in whispers. I just knew as time went on that we never saw them again. Cancer became “it” as they wouldn’t just say cancer. “Did he or she have “it?” was the question. It was more understandable if someone dies of old age but I didn’t know what happened. I was never taken to funerals as a child.

I absolutely hope every parent at least will have the good sense to have your child immunized against whooping cough. Remember. When I was young we didn’t have all the immunizations available today to protect our children. Everyone should look at immunization as a blessing.

When I came down with whooping cough (red quarantine sign again) it was probably one of the most frightening experiences of my life to that point.

Mom sat in a chair at the dining room table to keep me upright as I “whooped,” pounding on my back and telling me “to try to take a deep breath.” My God! I could barely get a small breath.

This is when I thought I was dying. I was so scared that this is what it meant to die. It went on for days. Mom used to make her own version of a mustard plaster — powdered mustard and enough water to make a paste and then slather it over a piece of flannel, put that on my chest with a bath towel wrapped around it and me. I suppose it helped but I wasn’t convinced. It just got hot. Obviously, I got better but for a long time, the question of death haunted me. If I asked my parents, it was blown off as a silly question by a little girl.

Now, we come to the problem of polio.

Recently I have read about a new malady occurring in various states that resembles polio. I don’t know what conclusions have been arrived at, what the medical field is doing about fighting it.

My best friend during high school in Alameda — my family moved there in 1941 — she and I went down to San Jose State College in 1945. Everyone was well aware of polio. After all, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had it and then all the publicity about the Salk Vaccine — everyone wanted to get the vaccine.

We all got our shots as I am sure my friend did.

We both went on with our lives. She had two children. And then what happened? She got polio. She had to wear braces on her lower legs and of course, used crutches.

Why did this happen? I don’t know. I am sure she got the immunization. Is there ever a knowledgeable answer for this? But she got cancer. A few years later she died. Her lovely daughter and son left without a mother.

So now my big question. Is there now an immunization out there for this polio copycat? If not I hope there will be one soon.

For all you parents who do not have your children immunized, I hope you reconsider.

I haven’t even touched on the flu. Yes, I used to get that, too. I have been getting my yearly shot so I hope I don’t get “it.”

But I have the solution to all this though. Bring back those great attention-getting red quarantine signs.

That should do it.

Dorothy Erickson lives in Crescent City.

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