Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Silent Crippler

by Connie Cortright

Many diseases from the early twentieth century are all but eradicated today because of vaccines that were given to children. Poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis, is one of those diseases. Up until the 1960s, parents lived in fear that their children would catch the polio virus and be crippled the remainder of their lives. 

During the 20s and 30s, that was a very real threat. Polio epidemics would hit cities or areas of the country causing parents to panic. Polio was spread through an unknown pathogen at that time. During these epidemics schools, cinemas, public swimming pools, and sports arenas would be closed to try to prevent the spread of the disease.

The polio virus most often struck infants and children causing paralysis in limbs. It attacked nerves that activated muscles causing the muscles to be paralyzed. After the virus ran its course, whichever muscles that were affected by the virus would be weakened or possibly paralyzed for life. With rehabilitation and therapy concentrated on the affected muscles, often the children would see improvement in muscle strength. Many children were able to get around with the help of leg braces and crutches. 

For decades, parents faced the fear of their children contracting the disease. They would watch as healthy children were overtaken by the virus, unable to stop the debilitating disease. The medical means to help the affected children continued to improve over the early 20th century, but no cure was found. 
Diagram of Iron Lung

When the disease attacked the lungs, the child would die because the lung muscles became paralyzed. By 1928, an iron lung was developed to save the lives of children by being placed in a container that used negative air pressure to suck air into lungs that were paralyzed. 
Polio ward full of iron lungs

The children would have to live in the iron lung while the disease ran rampant in their bodies. They would breathe with the use of the machine for two to three weeks until the muscles that worked their lungs would return to normal use. In some cases, children needed to use the iron lung for years. These devices kept many children alive from the 30s up until the 50s. Many hospitals had polio wards during these years helping the children breathe. 

After much research and experimentation, Jonas Salk found a vaccine for polio. The Salk vaccine was tested during the early 1950s and given by injection to children. Albert Sabin perfected the vaccine so that it could be delivered orally by 1960. This vaccine was in wide use during the 60s given to millions of children across the country. After that time, poliomyelitis became less prevalent and declared eradicated by 1994. 

I remember standing in line waiting for the polio vaccine to be given to me orally as a child. I had no idea then how thankful my parents probably were to have this available for us to prevent this terrible disease. A sister of one of my grade school classmates had polio and walked with braces. This wasn't uncommon when we were children.

Do you know anyone who had polio while they were young?

Information taken from Wikipedia - Iron Lung  and Facts about Polio

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rock the Night Away

by Connie Cortright

This week an old member of our family was returned to us. A rocking chair, that has been in my husband's family since the early 1920s, was delivered to our house after a refinishing company restored it to it's original condition. This chair is very valuable to us, not only because it's been in the family for four generations, but also because it is so historically unique.

The chair is actually one of the earliest forms of a recliner called the Morris chair. (And to think I never even heard of a Morris chair until the refinishing company identified it as such.) Morris and Company started manufacturing these early recliners already in 1883, but I'm sure our chair isn't that old. It might have been made in the early 20s or maybe just after World War I.

In doing research about these chairs, I was surprised that I didn't find too many others made like this. This rocking chair does not rock on the usual rounded wood runners. Instead it sits on a platform and uses large springs attaching the chair to the base that allow the rocker to rock back and forth.

Morris chairs were more often standard chairs that had the ability to recline. These first recliners had a hinged back between two arms that allowed the chair to recline using a metal bar and different notches in which to place the bar.

With the bar in the highest position, the chair sits upright. But if the person wants to recline in the chair, the bar would be moved manually to a lower position, allowing the back of the chair to lean back farther.

These type of recliners were popular from the later 1800s until the 1930s. By that time La-Z-Boy Incorporated had been formed and had patented the recliner mechanism that has been used and updated until today.

There are lots of family memories that go along with this rocker. The best one is from my mother-in-law who told me that when her babies were sick, she'd recline the rocker and rock the night away with her sleeping baby in her arms, rocked asleep in this Morris chair. We didn't get the chair passed down to us until after my boys were out of the baby stage, so I don't have memories like this myself, but maybe one of my daughters-in-law will one day. Now the big question is which one of my four sons will inherit this family heirloom.

Do you have an item that is passed from one generation to the next in your house?

Information taken from Recliner History and Morris Chair.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"To Lift and Separate"

by Connie Cortright

I've been doing revisions on Book 2 of my "Grace Alone" series. When I was reading through a chapter of "Lead Me Home", I decided on the topic of my blog this week. Below is the part I was reading. Roman Halverson (Romy) is the hero in my story that takes place in 1935. The other two people mentioned are his brothers: 
Romy entered the milk house. Ted cranked the handle of the separator while Jim poured in a fresh pail of milk. The foamy liquid threatened to overflow the bowl of the machine as the bucket emptied. The spinning motion of the milk caused the thicker cream to pour down one spout while the skim milk came out the other spout. The cream was collected into the five-gallon can and stored in the water tank to keep it cold until the milkman came on Thursday.  At the creamery, the thick pale yellow fluid would be made into butter, a commodity still in demand despite the Depression. Romy knew having high quality cream was important, because Pa had to get top dollar. The survival of the farm depended on it.
I decided that most people probably won't know what is happening from reading the text, so I decided to explain it in this post. Romy and his brothers have finished milking the cows on their father's farm. This section explains the process of what happened to the milk to prepare it for sale. 

By 1935, Carl Gustaf de Laval had invented his cream separator which Romy is using, as did all dairy farmers who wanted to sell their cream at the market. Cream brought in more money than selling milk at that time because cream was made into butter which every household needed. 

The Laval Separator used a crank arm to spin the milk in the large upper container. The centrifugal force caused the lighter cream to flow upward and pour out of the higher spigot. The skim milk flowed to the lower spigot and was collected in a container from the lower outlet. Check out the You Tube video for a good demonstration.

Cream separators made life so much easier for farmers. Farmers could purchase separators that would process from 250 to 500 pounds of milk per hour depending on the size of the farm. Of course, the larger ones added motors to do the spinning of the milk. 

Oftentimes, the skim milk would be fed to the animals thinking that skim milk wasn't worth anything. Now skim milk is a best seller in stores. 

If your grandparents grew up on a farm, they'd probably have first hand experience to share with you about milk separators. Go ahead and ask them about it sometime. 

Information taken from How It Works: Cream Separator

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Why Not Call It "Roundtine"?

by Connie Cortright

Since our country was started by people from Great Britain, we have many things in common with them, or ideas borrowed from them. In the early 1900s, they shared a favorite chocolate drink with children here when Ovaltine was exported to our country.

But, to quote Jerry Seinfeld: Why not call in Roundtine? The jar is round. The mug is round. Why do they call it Ovaltine?

Ovaltine was originally invented in Switzerland by Georg Wander as he was trying to find a way to boost the nutrition level of undernourished poor children. He extracted the malt from barley, added vitamins and nutrients and made it into a nutritious drink. His son Albert, knowing that the mixture needed to have more flavor to appeal to people, added sugar, whey protein and eggs to the mixture naming it Ovomaltine. It was sold as a hot energy booster drink at the ski resorts in Switzerland and became an instant hit. The chocolate flavoring was added later.

This product was exported to Britain in 1909, but a misspelling in the trademark registration caused the name to be changed to Ovaltine.  Our British friends then exported this newly named drink to our country in 1915. It was promoted as a nutritional drink for children when added to hot or cold milk.

As with other products, the marketing of this product took off during the 1930s when the owners of the company promoted Ovaltine on children's radio shows in Britain and the US. "The League of Ovaltineys" was broadcast to children in Great Britain during this time, recruiting them to be "Ovaltineys". By listening to the radio program and purchasing Ovaltine, the children could earn badges, pins, and secret codes. The sale of the product soared because of this.

I don't remember drinking Ovaltine as a child, but I'm sure glad that we didn't have the League of Ovaltineys in our country. Our parents/grandparents probably have all been caught up in this fad like so many other fads that come and go. But this type of advertising works. Great Britain had more than five million Ovaltineys during the 1930s.

In the US, Ovaltine sponsored "Little Orphan Annie" radio program during the 1930s to broaden the purchasing power. Finding that using radio programs to sell a product got results, they sponsored "Captain Midnight" in the 40s. As the media changed from radio to television, Ovaltine followed the trend sponsoring the "Captain Midnight" TV series during the 1950s. They also instigated the free give-aways of secret decoder rings, badges and pins to sell more of the product.

I remember drinking Nestle's Quick as a child when we were allowed to have a chocolate flavored drink. That was the big competition for Ovaltine. Do you have any memories you'd like to share about Ovaltine?

Information taken from Wikipedia-Ovaltine and A Brief History About Ovaltine