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
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
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.