Hulett: Back then we continued our regular lives

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Mike Hulett, opinion columnist for The Forum Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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Some folks have their shorts in a bunch with April cruises cancelled and summer trips to Disney World in jeopardy. Businesses are closed. Schools are closed. No athletics. No concerts. Frustration is understandably widespread. It was different “back in the day.”

Rewind to the early 1950s in Eureka, Illinois, population 2,200. I remember coming down with the red measles. Highly contagious and covered with itchy red spots, Mom and Dad isolated me in my room for a week. Our family doctor came to the house with his black leather bag of instruments and medicines. He feared complications.

The average number of measles cases in the United States during the 1950s (with about half of today’s populace) was more than 500,000 every year, with as many as 500 deaths. Ninety-five percent of American kids were infected by age 15. Despite that, we continued our regular lives.

Back then, polio was by far the most dreaded communicable disease attacking children in America. In 1952, nearly 60,000 kids were infected with the virus. Over 15,000 were paralyzed and more than 3,000 died. It was all over the radio. Mother was beside herself. I clearly remember her avoiding public drinking fountains and not allowing us to swim at the beach. Despite that, we continued our regular lives.


In 1952, Disney World never closed, NCAA March Madness was not cancelled, and no other important events were postponed or not shown on television. In 1952, Disney World didn’t exist. March Madness didn’t exist. Nobody went on cruises. Television was in its bare infancy and nobody owned a TV. If we wanted to take in a Chicago Cubs baseball game we listened on the radio.

Few of the families in our town could have afforded the time or money to visit a major theme park had there been any. Our entertainment was kick-the-can, sandlot baseball, or setting up a comic book and Kool-Aide stand down on the corner. Saturday afternoon matinees at the local theater cost 15 cents. It was air-conditioned! People gathered at the town square for Saturday evening band concerts.

Back then, even in the face of dreadful medical perils, we continued our regular lives. Home before dark, we listened to our favorite stories on the radio: "Sky King," "The Lone Ranger," and "The Shadow." We closed our eyes and could see them in our minds. On Sunday evenings we made popcorn and played canasta with our parents. The Jack Benny Show was on the radio in the background.

Today, temporarily shutting down New York City, Los Angeles or Seattle due to a virus, maybe, but there is no factual data supporting the long-term benefits of completely shutting down the entire U.S. Two or three weeks are one thing, but after about 3 months our economy will be destroyed.

Are we willing to trade massive small business failures, depression level unemployment, widespread poverty and loss of hard-earned retirement savings in exchange for a short-term virus victory? Or, should we each be very cautious, considering age and underlying health concerns, and continue our regular lives?

Related Topics: HEALTH
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