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Old Parish Cemetery of Norwood 

 

​​The Old Parish Preservation Volunteers welcome your help


Email:  norwoodoldparish@gmail.com

While OPPV is on COVID-19 hiatus, our web site will host a series of anecdotes excerpted from the book Influenza and Inequality: One Town’s Tragic Response to the Great Epidemic of 1918 by OPPV founder, Patricia J. Fanning. Each Tuesday, and Saturday a new episode with historic images will be posted.

Norwood Has Been Here Before Episode 6

Norwood Has Been Here Before Episode 5

The uncertainty about how the disease was transmitted compounded anxieties and eroded routine interactions. Grocery deliveries were left outside on porches, and mail was baked in the oven before being opened. One woman recalled, “And Peter Flaherty, the store down where Shurfine is now. We traded with him and he’d bring, you know, whatever my father needed and leave it on the doorstep. No one would go into each other’s houses.” The question of quarantines came up at the Epidemic Committee meetings. The committee voted to place placards bearing the words “INFLUENZA – VISITORS NOT ALLOWED” on every house where disease had struck. A few remembered how it felt. One resident remembered the police nailing “a great big white sign that said INFLUENZA in red letters” on her front door. “I was like quarantined….kind of scary. I’ll never forget it.” Another gentleman recalled: “I remember them talking about those signs—quarantine signs. It was as if, I don’t know, they’d done something wrong. And they were being punished.” 

 

Influenza and Inequality One Town’s Tragic Response to the Great Epidemic of 1918

Copyright ©2010 by Patricia J. Fanning

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America University of Massachusetts Press Amherst and Boston

One of the aspects of the epidemic that was especially difficult for townspeople was the social isolation. Much of life in 1918 was devoted to fraternal, social, cultural, and religious organizations and activities. The Mason, the Odd Fellows, the Elks Club all held meetings and lectures year-round, as did several ethnic groups. Lithuanian Hall was always busy with groups that included a Literary Society and a Glee Club. Finnish Workingmen’s Association on Chapel Court sponsored men’s and women’s athletic clubs and choirs, a band, a drama club, and sewing circle. Young people were encouraged to participate in theater, music, and athletics. Suddenly these social outlets were shuttered. At the request of state officials, all theaters, churches, and social halls were closed to large gatherings. Special announcements appeared throughout the paper. For example, the weekly Red Cross meeting was canceled, as was the regular meeting of the Norwood Elks Club. State Guard drills were suspended and the Daughters of Veterans rummage sale was postponed.

[Today Conrad's occupies the site of the Premier Theater in 1918.]

 

 

Influenza and Inequality One Town’s Tragic Response to the Great Epidemic of 1918

Copyright ©2010 by Patricia J. Fanning

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America University of Massachusetts Press Amherst and Boston

Norwood Has Been Here Before Episode 4

Inside the Emergency Hospital, Dr. Lewis H. Plimpton, a retired physician, assumed leadership of the medical care. Nurses were directed by the supervisor of the Norwood Hospital. The coordination of the kitchen, food, housekeeping, and general administration was put under the direction of Mrs. Marcia Winslow, who admitted her only administrative experience had been with cooks and chambermaids in her own home. More than a hundred cots were secured. Girl Scouts initially scrubbed floors, set up cots, and made the beds. Once the Emergency Hospital opened, they were assigned to the front desk to sign in patients, answer the telephone, and check incoming supplies. Boy Scouts carried water and ran errands. A call went out for more women to assist with the nursing duties. Thirty school teachers volunteered. Between October 3 and October 9, forty-five people died of influenza in Norwood, more than a quarter of the usual annual death toll.

Influenza and Inequality One Town’s Tragic Response to the Great Epidemic of 1918

Copyright ©2010 by Patricia J. Fanning

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America University of Massachusetts Press Amherst and Boston

Norwood Has Been Here Before Episode 3

The volunteers at the Emergency Hospital continued to work at a brisk pace and the Well-nursery for children that was set up at the Winslow School began to fill. On October 3, two physicians were sent to Norwood by the National Health Service Bureau via the State Board of Health to aid with the care of patients. Schools were closed for another week with an anticipated re-opening on Monday, October 14. Meanwhile, local businesses tried to make the best of the situation by advertising in the October 5th Messenger. H. E. Rice & Company, a dry goods store, advertised a good variety of “mourning hats” for their customers and Orent Brothers suggested their Overcoats were just the thing to “avoid suffering from Influenza.”

[In 1918 Orent Bros. clothing store was located across from today's Post Office Sq. on Guild St.  For a view of that location in 2020 check the Gallery tab above.]

 

Influenza and Inequality One Town’s Tragic Response to the Great Epidemic of 1918

Copyright ©2010 by Patricia J. Fanning

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America University of Massachusetts Press Amherst and Boston

Norwood Has Been Here Before Episode 2

On October 2, the Epidemic Committee decided to open a well-nursery to care for children whose mothers were too sick to care for them. The next day, with the permission of the School Committee, a facility was established at the Winslow Elementary School [today’s Winslow Medical Building], located in the “Swedeville” neighborhood, close to South Norwood. It was supplied with food, cots, and bedding for the children.  As the Norwood Messenger described it, the children’s accommodations were set up in the front rooms of the building where beds equipped with “sheets, pillowcases and warm blankets” were assembled. A dining room was installed “directly across the hall, equipped with a gas range, tables and chairs.”  A supply room for food, milk, butter, and other staples was set up separately in a room where the windows could remain open keeping the area “cool enough to avoid the necessity of purchasing ice.” Six teachers immediately volunteered to take charge of the nursery and by the evening of October 3, three children had already arrived. 

 

[The Winslow School is located at the Corner of Chapel St & Winslow Ave. In 2020 it is known as the Winslow Professional Building housing medical providers.]

Influenza and Inequality One Town’s Tragic Response to the Great Epidemic of 1918

Copyright ©2010 by Patricia J. Fanning

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America University of Massachusetts Press Amherst and Boston

Norwood Has Been Here Before Episode 1

Although the influenza epidemic began in Boston in August, 1918, it was mid-September before it hit Norwood. After thirteen deaths and widespread illness, on September 28, 1918, at the request of Norwood’s town manager and the chief of police a Special Committee on the Epidemic was created. Herbert Plimpton was elected its chairman. Since the Norwood Hospital was filled to capacity and its staff and nurses already overworked, the town needed another site to send patients. George Willett immediately offered the Norwood Civic Association building—called “the Civic”—for use as an emergency hospital. In the Committee’s opinion the building was particularly appropriate because it was near the center of town, close by the existing hospital, and its architecture made the isolation of certain parts of the building possible. The Social Hall, an upstairs room used for dancing lessons and small parties, was proposed as the women’s ward. Everett Hall, the largest room in the building, one often used for plays, graduation exercises, proms and town meetings, was designated for men.  The gymnasium was turned into a morgue, with empty coffins stacked outside. There were also ample rooms for storage of supplies, rest areas for volunteers, and any other needs that might arise.

*Influenza and Inequality One Town’s Tragic Response to the Great Epidemic of 1918

Copyright ©2010 by Patricia J. Fanning

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America University of Massachusetts Press Amherst and Boston

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