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 centennial Herald Masthead 
  home > news > centennial front > Monday, October 20, 2003 

Chew your food and ... and avoid the flu
This photo, circa 1895, shows the original St. Luke's Hospital building at the foot of Sehome Hill. St. Luke's first opened in 1892 in the unused Grand Central Hotel at Holly and Forest streets, but needed a smaller, more affordable space. Bellingham Bay Improvement Co. donated three lots at Chestnut and Jersey streets. Construction began in late 1894 and St. Luke's opened in its new home in January 1895. WHATCOM MUSEUM OF HISTORY & ART

ach fall, dutiful people all over Whatcom County trudge into a doctor's office, clinic or even the local grocery store to receive their annual flu shot. Elderly and infirm folks are particularly encouraged to get immunized against the season's more serious strains of the flu.

William "Mack" McGillivray of Silver Beach doesn't worry much about those shots. After all, he says, he came down with influenza in 1918 - and survived.

I had a little bird
Its name was Enza.
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza

- children's rhyme

"People were dropping like flies around here," said McGillivray, who was 9 when he got sick.

He admits to tossing his medicine under the bed as soon as "old Doc Boynton" left the house. What was in that medicine?

"Probably sugar pills," scoffed McGillivray. "They didn't have any way to stop it."

Common ailments of early Bellinghamsters

In the rugged early days of Bellingham, common reasons for going to the hospital included:

• Alcoholism

• Ax and saw cuts

• Broken bones

• Falls

• Influenza

• Mule kicks

• Near drowning

• Tuberculosis

McGillivray was lucky. The Spanish Influenza pandemic that flew around the world in the fall of that year killed 25 million people.

Doctors desperately sought a cure. The U.S. surgeon general's office swamped the nation with educational pamphlets. The problem was that no one knew how to combat it.

The Colgate Co.'s attempt to help the public through paid advertisements detailing how to avoid the flu, was a good example of the medical community's bewilderment.

Colgate's recommendations? Chew your food carefully and avoid tight clothes.

- Bonnie Hart Southcott

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