Not Even the West Family


This article in the morning P. I. the week of October 17, 1989, brought back more memories. In October 1918 when I was thirteen years old, it is estimated that over the world 21 million died of the Spanish flu. Luckily no one in our family died but, oh how sick we were! Dad was the only one who escaped getting ill so he had the responsibility of taking care of the four of us night and day. My brother and I were put in one bed for Dad’s convenience which worked very well until we got better. With nothing else to do we would kick each other. Why? Probably one of us was taking more than his half of the bed. Dad finally put some sort of a partition between us.

Mother suffered the most for she always had asthma. One night her lungs were so congested that she could barely breathe. Dad called the doctor at two or three in the morning and Dr. Willard worked on mother for several hours clearing her lungs. Dr. Willard was a chiropractor as I remember but Vern my brother insists he was an osteopath. Whichever one he was he didn’t lose a flu patient in Missoula and he saved my mother’s life.

When we were recuperated enough to begin to eat, the doctor ordered spinach for us three times a day. To make it easier to get down Dad would put butter and sugar on it and I still like it that way. However, I have learned to eat it without. Back in 19l8 in the winter months fresh spinach wasn’t available as it is now, so we ate can after can of it. Believe it or not, I still like spinach, canned or fresh.

The set of Richard Harding Davis books in the bookcase is the one Dad bought for me to read when I was recovering. Of course schools were closed for so many were ill. Parents of those who were not ill didn’t want their children around others. Smoking some sort of a cigarette was popular with us children especially. The smoke was supposed to ward off the flu bug. We also wore masks.
All sorts of stories circulated about people, such as sheep herders contracting the flu although they had never been around people. According to this latest account in the newspaper clipping Eskimo villages in remote places in Alaska were wiped out.

Although our family survived our home didn't. At the time we became ill my father had a contract to build a home in a town outside of Missoula. Of course when the whole family became ill Dad came home to take care of us for there simply wasn't anyone else to do it. The owner of the house Dad was building was very angry for he wanted the place finished and Dad wouldn't go back until Mother had fully recovered. Consequently Dad was sued.

Because the case was being tried before Judge McAllister, a member of our church and a neighbor who lived a block away we were confident we would win when the Judge heard the whole story. However, it was decided against Dad and we lost our home. This was my first disillusionment with the court system. I was in the courtroom and heard the Judge forbid Dad to tell his side of the story. I'd known the Judge and his wife all of my life, in fact, his wife had coached me for the declamation contests.

Until the day of Judge McAllister's funeral I had always thought the Ku Klux Klan was some awful group of men down in the southern states. At the funeral I found out that the judge was a member when the men came marching into the church dressed in their white robes and hoods. Needless to say many of the church members were shocked. I wonder what those men did at their meetings or why their group had a reason to exist in Missoula for there was just one black family in the town and to my knowledge they were never harassed. In fact, they were members of the Methodist church -- and so was the Judge.

Losing our home was devastating at the time but if it hadn't happened we would not have moved to Seattle, I wouldn't have gone to Mt. Vernon where I met your father, and you children wouldn't be here to read this.