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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: Three children died from polio as the disease began to spread throughout the city

 (S-R archives)
(S-R archives)

Three Spokane children died of “infantile paralysis,” also known as polio. All of the children were in good health until they began complaining of sore throats. Then the paralysis quickly advanced.

Ralph Hendricks, the city health officer, was “taking all precautionary measures to combat the disease.” At the time, however, there was no polio vaccine, although a “serum” was thought to be effective if administered quickly.

The children who died were aged 11, 6 and 3. Hendricks said polio had “not reached the epidemic stage” in Spokane yet, as it had in some other parts of the country.

Polio would continue to cause paralysis and death, often among children, until a vaccine succeeded in mostly eradicating the disease in the 1950s and 1960s.

A fourth Spokane child, age 5, died of spinal meningitis, another disease that seemed to be spreading. She was the fourth child to die of spinal meningitis at Sacred Heart Hospital in three days.

From the transit beat: The Washington Water Power Co. was not bluffing when it said it would dismantle the Lidgerwood and North Division streetcar lines if the city allowed competing jitney (private van) routes.

As morning dawned, WWP workmen with crowbars and sledgehammers pulled out the rails and took them to a warehouse.

The city responded by adding more jitneys to the route. A jitney arrived every six minutes.

This was part of a long-simmering dispute. The streetcar companies said they could not maintain service if the city licensed jitney routes.

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