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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Spiting flu warnings, thousands take to the streets for fair and dance

A carnival atmosphere gripped the streets of Spokane, despite renewed warnings from the city health officer. (Spokesman-Review archives)
A carnival atmosphere gripped the streets of Spokane, despite renewed warnings from the city health officer. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Thousands of young people ignored admonitions from the city health officer and attended a street fair and dance downtown.

They “trooped up and down” Riverside Avenue and laughed at the antics of two actors, one dressed as Uncle Sam and the other dressed as Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany. The latter actor “had the time of his life in freeing himself from the crowd,” who hooted at him, struck him and mobbed him – but apparently stopped short of injuring him.

The dance, held at the Spokane Armory, attracted one of “the largest crowds ever assembled at a dance in Spokane.” The paper estimated the throng at over 4,000.

From the flu beat: The Spanish flu claimed six more deaths – 12 in two days – confirming fears that the epidemic had made a comeback.

St. Luke’s Hospital was so full of flu patients it could take no more. At Deaconess Hospital, “three whole floors” were filled with flu patients. Sacred Heart Hospital had set aside 140 beds for flu patients – and all were occupied. The city’s emergency flu hospital – a former hotel – was filled with 90 patients.

The city health officer announced that placards would be put up “on every residence where the disease is known to exist.”

“These placards are not intended as quarantine notices, but as a warning to visitors,” The Spokesman-Review said.

City health officer Dr. J.B Anderson said that the resurgence was caused because people had “let themselves loose” and gathered in crowds for victory celebrations and holiday celebrations.

Pressure was rising to reinstate the ban on public gatherings. Anderson recommended that the schools be closed again, but school officials objected.

The total number of flu cases rose to 6,835, and the death toll to 244.

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