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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Authorities crack down on violators as flu death toll reaches nearly 300

The Empress Theater was shut down after being found in violation of city health codes. (Spokesman-Review archives)
The Empress Theater was shut down after being found in violation of city health codes. (Spokesman-Review archives)

City health authorities shut down the Empress Theater because it violated the Spanish flu quarantine.

Two health inspectors visited the Empress and found “84 people standing in the lobby, in direct violation of the quarantine order,” said city health officer Dr. J.B. Anderson. In addition, children under 12 were in attendance and the gallery was overcrowded. When the health inspectors ordered the lobby cleared, “management paid no heed.”

So Dr. Anderson closed the Empress until further notice. If the Empress tried to reopen, he vowed to haul the manager, the ticket seller, the doorkeeper and every other employee to the police station.

Theaters were allowed to stay open during the quarantine, but as the result of a compromise, they were not allowed to sell standing room only tickets, were not allowed to permit crowding in the lobbies and were not allowed to admit children.

In other developments, the city prepared 5,000 placards for posting on homes where influenza was present. The placards read, in part, “Influenza – public excluded except nurse, doctor and relief attendants.”

The new quarantine rules seemed to be having some effect. There were 124 new flu cases reported in one day, which represented at least a modest leveling-off.

The number of cases, from the beginning of the epidemic, was 9,169, and the death toll reached 296.

From the business beat: Four of the five employees of the Spokane branch of the Bank of Montreal were down with flu, and it appeared that the bank would be unable to open. But manager William Dick and his daughter, Miss Beatrice Dick, a stenographer, decided to staff the business on an emergency basis.

They asked “the indulgence of patrons for slow and inadequate service.”

The head office was sending help, in the form of bank clerks from Rossland and Vancouver, British Columbia.

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