Been Here, Done This

Greetings from . . . my bed! My office has moved to my bedroom – or should I call it my war room? Never thought I’d preach from bed, but here we are. I just ordered a tripod for my phone so we can broadcast from other platforms. I’m terribly un-tech savvy, but I am doing my best to rise to the occasion.

It has been wonderful to be included in a large email list of our congregation’s elders. Recently, they have been sharing memories of quarantine early in their lives. These wise elders have been here, and done this already. I thought the rest of our members and friends might find these accounts as fascinating as I did . . . cheers, and STAY HOME, Y’ALL!

Frank Dungan got us started . . .

“At this time of imposed isolation, I have been having flashbacks to my first quarantine. I was five. My parents, oldest sister and I lived with my maternal grand parents in their house in northeast Philadelphia. It was a  joyous experience as a kid, The Waltons(!) more especially with a prankish grand father, Frank, a contractor who had kept on the payroll his entire work crew during the Depression, “No matter what!” he had declared, lunch box in hand.

So at some point or other, I felt sick and got sicker and weaker and burned with fever. Doctor Green, the family pediatrician arrived at the house, toting his black bag. (Anyone recall those days? Like the bread man and milk man, who showed up at the door). His diagnosis: Scarlet Fever. 

He announced that I had to be quarantined in the hospital. And separated  immediately from my mother because she was pregnant with my middle sister.  (I was one of 6 Dungan children. Irish neighborhood/Boomer times. The  Fleurs had 17, the Robinsons 11, The Batemans 10. Slainte!)

My grandfather went into a fury, bellowed, “No grandson of mine is going to  any EXPLETIVE hospital,” and sent Doctor Green packing. He then sent my  mother, sister and grandmother packing to my aunt’s house. He and my dad remained…………………………………………………….at a distance.

Hence, for some three weeks, may have been even more, I remained alone in a dark bedroom, day and night, my only company a blue ultra violet light that I stared at day and night, mounted on the wall. My father and grand father alternated running in meals and liquids. Tentative words of cheer.

My blue light companion is the reason that to this very day, I can stare at a distant light, say, a buoy, the flashing lights of a radio tower, the ferris wheel lights twinkling from the Santa Monica Pier, The Reel Inn Restaurant’s neon light flashing jumping red fishes though the  evening PCH mist. 

As an aside, this experience was happening to me…and other young kids…at the same time of the POLIO SCARE. “Don’t drink out of a public fountain!” “Don’t swim in a public pool!” “Just who is this new friend of yours? Where’s he been?” “Who’s his family?” All illustrations of parents’ paranoia. (In the epidemic of 1949, 2,720 deaths from the disease occurred in the United States and 42,173 cases were reported and Canada and the United Kingdom were also affected.)

I guess this all serves as a reminder…no matter how inconvenient or frightening, no matter the great unknown of COVID-19, somehow we will all get through. And how fortunate we are to  have a church community, a Senior Fellowship to rely on.

Alanna K. Brown responded . . .

Boy, your reflections bring back memories.  Mine was getting the measles when I was 5.  Darkened, shuttered living room bed instead of sleeping in the room with my sister.  Itchy red bumps everywhere and a fever during the summer in Panorama City, and I had to wear wool gloves on my hands so I would not itch myself in my sleep or by accident.  No one but Mom coming in to check on me several times, day and night.  The house had red “QUARANTINED” signs around the house.  Mom kept a washcloth over my eyes, I guess, because measles could also cause sight damage or blindness.  I kept very still like Mother said because I could feel her anxiety, but also because I felt so very weak and without hunger.  Now, those moments are rare, I’ll tell you….

Funny to remember that, and also the long lines of parents and children as the Salk Vaccine came from school to school in L.A.  Parents just prayed the vaccine would come before their children were struck.  I remember  children crying from the shot at the front of the line, and parents quiet.  It is that quiet that tells you how anxious they are, as well as in my case, Dad taking off work to see that I got the shot, and Mom taking off work to see the Terry got the shot.  We must have been 7 and 5, or 8 and 6.  To this day, I have friends who had and survived polio, but it continued to impact their lives.  When parents will not inoculate their children, it still seems so strange to me, because my parents lived when those vaccines were just coming out, some too late for us, like chicken pox or the measles.  Parents thought vaccines were godsends.

And this from Jan Whitney . . .

This was not exactly a quarantine, but around age 9, I got  Rheumatic Fever and was Dr ordered to be in bed, no walking or even standing for a minimum of 4 months. We lived in a kind of Victorian house and my bedroom was very far away from the main part of the house.  I learned to be alone a lot. I don’t recall having visits from other children.  Listened to the radio all hours, cut out Paper Dolls and imagined stories with them.   The Dr made house calls, and ordered that our dog not be allowed in my room. ☹️.   But I lived for evenings when my older working brother would visit and play Crazy Eights and bring a new comic book.  I returned to school after 4 months.  

There were times I would be carried downstairs to lie on the couch.  I didn’t want to stay long…..Bird in Cage phenomenon! My room and bed had become my safe and comfortable place.  Might that happen to us as we find more ways to be adjusted to home?

This from Terry Hassman . . .

I’ve got to add my own story of quarantine.

I grew up in Newark, NJ, and was exposed to nearly every conceivable disease. I vividly recall that our house was quarantined in 1951. There was a huge, forbidding sign on the front porch:  QUARANTINED!  I had contracted mumps, measles, and whooping cough and had to remain home from school for a full month!

At that time, Channel 11 (or 9) from NYC, ran old movies for hours and hours each day. So, I got a complete healing dose of movies for most of the day.  I also remember being served mashed potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This was my comfort food.

By the time I returned to school after the month’s absence, everything being taught was strange and unfamiliar. One of my first new reading words was MOTHER.  We were not taught via the phonics system at that time. I was to remember this sight word via this trick:  “M” stands for “mother’s apron strings.”  How did I ever learn to read?

And finally, this from Dorothy Wait . . .

Such amazing stories of quarantine. They speak of our ages don’t they, that most vaccinations weren’t available nor were antibiotics. I am old enough to have experienced pneumonia when I was two years old and treatment was meager. My Mom said the doctor came to our house 29 times. There were no antibiotics and I have been told it was a miracle I survived. Penicillin came along a few years later. My Mom loved to later tell the story how rotten spoiled I became through that episode was quite a “hand full” until they got me back in shape!