Friday, May 8, 2009


Tis healthy to be sick sometimes-- Henry David Thoreau

Vaccinations today are routine, though under suspicion by some. A child can't go to school today unless they can show proof that they have been protected from a laundry list of diseases. Considering how these childhood diseases can sometimes be fatal, today's methods are far superior to what I grew up with, but we had no options. When I was a whippersnapper, we developed our immunities a little differently than those offered in a doctor's office today. These methods may seem barbaric but they were not an uncommon practice then.

We developed immunities simply by being exposed to, suffering the disease, never to have it again. The only vaccination offered and required, was for small pox. There was no need for documentation for that immunization. All who had been vaccinated carried a dime size scar on their shoulder. Proof positive. But there were other diseases lurking out there.

My older brother Jack was the first to get sick with the measles. So, my brother Jim and I were moved into Jack's room and promptly got the measles also. Possible the theory behind infecting the whole family is that it was just as easy to treat 3 kids as it was one and since we all lived in the same house, contamination was likely anyway. This method just hurried the process. An advantage also was that one doctor visit covered all.

We had just recovered from the measles as a group when Jimmy came home from school with the whooping cough. Again, we all piled into Jack's room and shared the wealth. Mother had to home school the boys to keep them from falling behind. I was preschool. The teachers worked with her to keep her sickly kids away from class.

By now, we were pretty peaked and run down so when the mumps reared its ugly head, we sure enough got it. Surprisingly, we did not get cranky with one another in the forced imprisonment. While one was usually wallowing in the beginning stage of the disease, two were usually well enough to play board games or read comics. We were seldom at the same stage at the same time. For siblings, we did quite well.

I don't think most kids went thru 3 diseases, back to back, like we did. It was really rough on us but also my Mother who had to tend to the sickies. Below is a picture I just love.

Mother sat us in the grass after we healed from our last disease, to document just what we had just been thru. She should have been in the picture for she was worn down also. We are racks of bones with dark circles under the eyes and too weak to smile, but we were carrying a life time of immunity in those scrawny bodies. We looked like the "starving children" that your parents made you eat your peas to support.

Family gang exposure to disease was a tough go while it was happening, but thanks to the unorthodox method, the rest of our childhood was disease free.

Were you exposed to parenting methods as a child that worked wonderfully at the time, but today might get parents investigated?


  1. My siblings and I and all the childhood diseases, except whooping cough and scarlet fever. The dreaded nemesis in our time was polio.

    However, we were exposed, not necessarily intentional, and shared the diseases one brought home except mumps. I had "light" cases of chicken pox and mumps. [Just paid for the shingles vaccine--a whopping $212.00 which Medicare not Tricare for Life cover}

    The parental habit that might get my parents in trouble today was spankings. They believed in Solomon's admonition, "spare the rod and spoil the child." OOPS!

  2. I was vaccinated at age 5 for diptheria and small pox. Somehow, I escaped measles and mumps, but developed whooping cough when I was in the 8th grade. Although I whooped a lot, none of my siblings got it.

    Measles vaccine hadn't yet made the scene when my oldest child started to school (1962). She came home from first grade with measles; her three younger siblings (3, 2 and 1)caught the measles from her. Before the measles tiny spots were gone, they were interspersed with chicken pox "pops". Before the chicken pox scabs were gone, all of their little jaws swelled up with mumps. Daughter was out of school for a month.

    I know this sounds "made up" but it's true. We lived with my mom and dad at the time and we took turns nursing and entertaining the kids. I could not have made it without my parents help.

  3. I wish I knew when Thoreau said that. Do you have the source? I know him fairly well, and it certainly sounds like him, but I can't place it.

    As for childhood diseases, I had mumps, measles, and chicken pox, all in the first grade.

  4. Nitwit,
    Sure do remember the polio fears. That vaccine was the best ever. As for spanking---my brother in law once threatened to spank his daughter if she kept doing something that she had been told not to. She was only 6 at the time, looked him square in the eye and said, "You can't do that. I'll call 911." Times have changed.

    Your tale sounds just like what happened to us. I guess when you get run down from one disease, the rest have a field day with you.
    Did your young'uns end up looking like war orphans like we did?

    Welcome to TNS. I wish I did know exactly where that quote came from. I am a fan of quotes but usually get them off the Net. I did check for you to locate the sourse but nothing.I am a fan of Walden's Pond but don't remember it in that.
    Welcome to the three disease club. I fear it isn't too exclusive.

  5. I would have been a hopeless counselor or therapist. In the middle of the saddest and most horrible session, I fear that I would laugh. Not through a paucity of human kindness, but... some times what else do you do! I confess that I did just that when I saw the photo of the sad trio of disease battered convalescents healing on the grass! Ah, those were robust times. I wonder if we are any better off now with jabs and pills for everything, bouncy rubber pads under swings and climbing frames in playgrounds, strange soft bats for children's cricket, and nothing toxic in the garden!

    Interested to read that Snowbrush knew Thoreau.

  6. Peter,
    Trust me, I had mentioned that is a favorite picture of us for that very reason. We are so pitiful, we are funny. I am pretty sure my Mother told us not to smile. She was sending it to family and she said she didn't want anyone to think it had been easy.

  7. It is interesting about how things were handled in "the old days" am someone who had Measles, Whooping Cough, Scarlet Fever, Chicken Pox--(TWICE!!! Which is not supposed to happen,) and Mumps--though I was already 18 years old when I got those pesky Mumps....
    Of course, back then, as you know, Polio was feared more than anything...Luckily, none of us got that. BUT, I was the only one who got Scarlet Fever. For whatever the reason, my three siblings did NOT get it....I'm sure my mother was grateful for that!
    And I think we pretty much all had Measles and/or Chicken Pox at the same time.
    That I had Chicken Pox again, maybe 10 years later was some very strange phenomenom...The Doctor was utterly Non-Plussed by this--And so was my!