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Thursday, December 13, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

100 years ago in Spokane: City health official puts his foot down on influenza crisis

As the infection count from the Spanish flu continued to rise, the city health official brought a legal complaint against Washington Water Power. (Spokesman-Review archives)
As the infection count from the Spanish flu continued to rise, the city health official brought a legal complaint against Washington Water Power. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Dr. J.B. Anderson, the city health official, swore out a complaint against the Washington Water Power company because it allowed overcrowding on the company’s streetcars.

A ban was in effect for all public gatherings because of the raging Spanish flu epidemic. Anderson had earlier instituted a prohibition on allowing overcrowding on streetcars; i.e., allowing people to stand in the aisles when the seats were full.

Anderson said a city health inspector found 18 to 20 people standing in the aisle of one streetcar. The conductor, when confronted, replied that he was under instructions to ignore the regulation.

Several more people died of the Spanish flu in the last 24 hours. The death toll was now 26, and there were 1,081 confirmed cases.

About 124 of those cases were in the Fort George Wright military hospital. Another 33 were reported at Gonzaga University.

From the military beat: The barracks of Spokane’s Army auto mechanic’s school was destroyed by a 3 a.m. fire, “making homeless 141 national army soldiers.”

The fire was discovered by sentries just in time to allow all of the men to escape safely. The cause was a mystery, although it appeared to start in baled straw in the building’s basement.

The barracks was the former Princess Skating Rink, converted to military use.

About 25 of the men were suffering from influenza, and were “shivering in the cold night air” until they were taken to the emergency hospital at Spokane City Hall.

An investigation was underway.


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