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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago: Some 900 officers-in-training – including Gonzaga men – beset by food poisoning

Capping a 29-mile trek, around 600 officers in training fell victim to food poisoning. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Capping a 29-mile trek, around 600 officers in training fell victim to food poisoning. (Spokesman-Review archives)

About 900 college men – including 20 from Gonzaga – were training to be Army officers at the Presidio in San Francisco when they were attacked by an unexpected enemy.

This enemy targeted their stomachs.

The men had been training for six weeks when they undertook a 29-mile hike “under real war conditions.” When they arrived at their destination, they pitched their tents, lined up for a soup dinner, and “rolled in for a night’s slumber.”

After a miserable night, about 600 of the 900 men “walked, crawled or limped” into the hospital tent.

They were suffering from ptomaine poisoning, caused by the soup from the night before.

“Three new hospital tents were hurriedly set up and three doctors rushed from Oakland to assist.”

Some of the cases appeared life-threatening, but soon the epidemic passed and everyone recovered.

One Gonzaga man made light of the situation in a letter home.

“More comedy was sprung in that one night of camp sickness than one would hear in a million vaudeville shows,” wrote “Babe” McAteer, a recent Gonzaga football star. “Everyone was sick and thought they were going to die. But no one did.”

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