Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

We stood in line 65 years ago to take sugar cubes to help wipe out polio. Why can't it be the same for COVID in 2021?

  • Updated
  • 0

The year was 1955 and I was in the seventh grade at a one-room schoolhouse about 11 miles west of Princeton.

At least that's the year I think it was. It was about 65 years ago and one's memory can fade over that amount of time. But the exact year isn't important.

There were about 18 of us and we were lined up, by age I think, and were to receive a treat. We were living out in the boondocks and that sounded good.

The treat was a sugar cube in a small paper cup. Again the memory is hazy, but I think we all were happy to have that little sugar cube.

If I remember right it had been explained to the older ones of us that what was in that cube of sugar was a vaccine to help wipe out the disease of polio. I don't remember whether or not parents had to approve the use of a vaccine developed by a doctor named Jonas Salk.

Three years earlier in 1952 60,000 kids in the U.S. had contracted polio and 3,000 of them had died.  Iron lungs, something many people have never heard of today (as well as never hearing of polio), were being used to keep people alive. It was a terrible disease for which there was no cure at the time.

Along came Dr. Salk and along came the beginning of wiping out this horrible disease that was sweeping our country and many other countries. 

When we lined up to take our sugar cubes that day I don't recall anyone saying that it wasn't a good idea, although there may have been some parents who didn't think it was a good idea. But anyone who had seen a picture of someone inside an iron lung probably thought the sugar cube was worth a try.

I would agree that 65 years ago it was the Dark Ages of medicine in this country. Most of why we know today about diseases, and most of the procedures that are done today, hadn't been invented But here was a chance, I imagine most people thought, to take on a disease that was very prevalent and very scary in the United States. And, by 1979, polio had been wiped out in the United States.

Now we have a pandemic going on in our world with COVID-19 and there have been 5 million deaths in the world because of it, about 750,000 of them in the United States And yet there are millions and millions who have not taken the chance to use the vaccine. And the debate continues.

Back there in the late 1940s and early 1950s people had to regularly deal with whooping cough, measles, small pox and mumps. I remember well a couple of us kids in a room by ourselves in our house in southern Minnesota, curtains draped over the entrance to that room until we got over whatever disease we had, although I don't remember the disease. It was a trying time for parents and kids. Advances must have been made against those diseases because they aren't prevalent today, a couple of them eradicated, the others rare. Vaccines have been very helpful.

Eight years ago Jeff Hage, present editor of the Union-Eagle and then president of Princeton Rotary, wrote a story about Princeton resident Arlene Sanborn.  Ten days short of her sixth birthday in 1946 she was diagnosed with polio and ended up at Gillette Hospital in St. Paul 10 times from 1946 to 1961. She never walked again but to her credit was able to get a job and worked for about 40 years before retiring on a Princeton farm with her mother. She didn't let polio define her life, she said, and was living in a townhouse in Princeton when Hage did the story in 2013. The story was one of courage and also one of education about polio.

So today, on Nov. 5, 2021, why in the H E double toothpick (a phrase popular in the '50s) can't people use the vaccine to help get rid of COVID-19? Maybe we were naive or uneducated about polio back in the 1950s but we took the vaccine and it started us on the way to getting rid of the disease in the U.S. It seems so simple!

Monday morning comments after the Vikings lose to the Cowboys

* There has been an overreaction to the Vikings losing 20-16 to Dallas with a back-up quarterback in the lineup. The Cowboys have two great receivers, two very good running backs, and a good offensive line. Cooper Rush, the back-up quarterback, noted after the game that they didn't change the offensive game plan one bit. The guys in the NFL are talented players. Did you notice that Mike White, the back-up quarterback for the New York Jets, made his first start ever in the NFL on Sunday and threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns in an upset win over Cincinnati? (See later note from a Thursday game.)

* Maybe the Dallas defensive backs were better than the Minnesota defensive backs. The only wide receiver who did anything for Minnesota was Adam Thielen. (6 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown). Justin Jefferson caught only 2 pass for 21 yards. I'm pretty sure Kirk Cousins would have been throwing more to Jefferson had he been open.

* The biggest play of the game came on the Cowboys final drive when there was a 33-yard completion that bounced off a Viking defensive back to wide receiver Amari Cooper. It was totally a lucky play, similar to the Minneapolis Miracle of the Vikes a couple years ago. Without that play I don't think Dallas would have scored the winning touchdown. And on that final drive a mistake by Coach Mike Zimmer was very important. With Dallas facing a 3rd-and-16 and likely about to kick a tying field goal, Zimmer called a second consecutive timeout, something against NFL rules. That made the play a 3rd-and-11 and Dallas converted. Those extra five yards might have made a big difference.

*The Viking defense has now given up late touchdowns in the last three games. While the offense wasn't great against Dallas, a beetter defense could have saved a Minnesota lead.

* A Friday morning comment to back up the opening statement about NFL players: White of the Jets threw a touchdown in the first quarter last night against Indianapolis and appeared headed for another good game. But he was hurt and the team's third-string quarterback came in and threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns in three quarters. That's from a third-stringer who hasn't played this year, proving that all the players at the NFL level can play if given a chance. One more thing: When White had his 405-yard game last Sunday he NEVER threw a pass more than 15 yards down the field. The Vikings are criticized for not throwing long passes but I guess White, who had never started, proved you don't have to do that to be effective. Anyway, the Vikings need a better running game to help open up their deep passing game.

PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES

Nov. 15, 1951 — Named to a "mythical all-star team selected by coaches" from the Rum River Conference were PHS football players Bob Paulson, Russ Hoehn, Jon Reiman and Jon Duckstad.

Nov. 15, 1956 — Coach Howard Solheim's PHS basketball team was to open against Brainerd. Frank Fischer (later the head football coach at Edina) was Solheim's assistant and Ken Johnson, "a former high-scoring forward at Moorhead Teachers College," was to coach the B team.

Nov. 16, 1961 — The three best series for the Tuesday Night Kingpins at Kenby Lanes belonged to Chester Jenson (572), Swede Johnson (566) and Bill Enger (562).

Nov. 10, 1966 — All-conference in football were Bob Backlund, Gerald Bender, Tim Enger, Steve Cartwright and Rich Lindstrom. Enger had 14 touchdowns, scored 88 points, and ran for 773 yards at 10.8 yards a carry.

Nov. 17, 1971 — Don Cordes was all-conference in football. Besides leading in rushing with 1,121 yards, he was the team's leading tackler. Tri-captains named for the 1972 team were Pete Teigen, Mark Wilhelm and Chuck Young.

Nov. 18, 1976 — All-conference in volleyball were Laurie Peterson, Roby Wilbrecht and Jane Comstock . . . Defending city league basketball champion Credit Union beat Crystal Cabinet Works 64-54 as Mike Arnold (26) ad Doug Schumacher (16) led the way. Leading Crystal were Ken Kettelhodt (19) and Bob Koelman (17). 

Nov. 12, 1981 — Kelley Talberg had 9 steals and 17 points, and Barb Blomberg 19 points in a 72-23 win over Braham . . . The boys basketball team trailed St. Francis only 26-25 but lost 81-44 as Tim Doyle had 10 points.

Nov. 13, 1986 —  Kelly Keen placed second in the 50-yard freestyle in the Section 3 meet in St. Cloud and earned a trip to the state meet. She set a school record of :25.49, paced third in another event and led Princeton to a sixth-place finish.

Nov. 14, 1991 — All-conference in football were Aaron Koelman, Jesse McAlpine and Craig Whittlef . . . The volleyball team (18-8) lost to Proctor in four games in section play as Corrine Lundell (18) and Tanya Dorr (9) led in kills.

Nov.14, 1996 — The swim team placed eighth in the section and set six school records. Justine Topel qualified for the state meet in two events . . . All-conference in football were Brad Hatch, Phil Trier, Mike Young and Tony Stay.

Nov. 8, 2001 — The undefeated freshman football team outscored opponents  269-86, averaged 300 yards a game, and averaged 7.6 yards a carry on the ground. Ales Geithman led rushers with 64 carries for 670 yards and scored eight touchdowns.

Nov. 9, 2006 — Newest members of thus PHS Hall of Fame were set to be Barb Blomberg, Al Fischer, Dean Hansen and Tom Peterson . . . Dylan King, about to compete at the state cross-country meet, was the third PHS runner to do so. The other two were Lyle Anderson in 1962 and Doug Burns in 1980.

Nov. 10, 2011 —  The boys hockey team  was ready to open the season with a game against Holy Family Catholic of Waconia.

Nov. 10, 2016 — The PHS football team (4-7) lost 41-27 to Cloquet in the Section 7AAAA title game. Tim Bialka ran for 160 yards in 31 carries and scored three touchdowns.

(Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has written about sports in the area for the past 54 years.)

Load comments