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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spanish Flu reduces football schedule to one game

In 1918 the two Spokane high schools, Lewis & Clark and North Central, were under a school board restriction that only allowed them three football games a year, including the traditional game against one another. Unseen circumstances arose that year to make that shortened schedule even smaller.

In 1918, the world was hit by one of the most serious pandemics of all time, the Spanish Influenza. It’s thought over 50 million or more people died around the world. In Spokane, one estimate had 1,000 or more Spokane citizens succumbing, with up to 17,000 affected by the time the flu had run its course.

 By early October of that year, Spokane Health Officer, Dr. John Anderson, trying to keep the spread of the disease limited, ordered that all schools, theatres, places of amusement, dance halls, churches, conventions and other meeting places were prohibited until further notice.  Even funerals and weddings were restricted in the numbers that could attend. Spokane County Health Officer, Albert Stuht, followed suit with a similar order.

Naturally, football took a back seat to the health concerns of the community. Both Lewis & Clark and North Central had games scheduled that were to have taken place in October, but fearing for the health of the players, those contests were canceled.

After seven weeks of quarantine, schools opened again on November 25th.  LC and NC decided to take to the football field for their one chance to have a game in 1918, and scheduled a Thanksgiving Day contest to be held at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds.  Coaches Leonard Elder at Lewis & Clark and Sam Moyer of North Central had just a few days to get their players ready before the big game.

On November 28  the two schools met and approximately 2,000 people turned out to see favored North Central come away with a 23-7 victory.  Aside from the game itself, the chance to meet and mingle with friends and schoolmates once again without fear of falling ill was undoubtedly a big feature of the day.

Bill Pierce
Bill Pierce is a sports blogger who writes the weekly nwprepsnow prep sports almanac.

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