Beth Hines

Pandemic Influenza Storybook

Storyteller: Beth Hines

Location: Nebraska

Illustration of two people holding hands

In 1957, I was an eight–year–old girl attending Blessed Sacrament School in Lincoln, Nebraska. I walked to school each day with my neighbor, Mary Jo Lhara. She was two years older than I was and I was proud to be her friend. One day at school we were given a letter to take home to our parents. I could be depended upon to deliver this missive with haste and in good order since it directed my parents to keep me, my sister, and my brother home from school for the remainder of the week. There were too many sick kids at school with a terrible flu. This was great news for kids in general. We spent the next day playing, but I still had to practice for a piano recital that was approaching all too quickly. I hoped that this flu would disrupt the dreaded recital and I wouldn′t have to get up on that stage and play the “Dance of the Daffodils.” Happily, piano practice was interrupted by the front door bell ringing. I jumped up from the bench and ran to open the door and found myself looking up at one of my favorite people, Dr. Lhara, Mary Jo′s dad. He was always ready to patch me up after my many encounters with the pavement and/or other things that get in the way of a little girl′s all-out play. Dr. Lhara looked down on me that day from the front door stoop and asked if my mother was at home. I said “yes” and he stepped inside as I ran to get mom. He explained to my mother that, as usual, Mary Jo and her older sister refused to allow him to give them “shots” and would we like to have the vaccinations that they wouldn′t take? My mother understood the gravity of this invitation as there was no flu vaccine available in Lincoln at the time. We all lined–up and happily took the flu vaccine that his family had refused.

The time finally came for the piano recital and as far as we knew, we were the only family vaccinated at that event. As I stood on the steps inside Blessed Sacrament that evening, I listened to the adults talk about the flu and how many people had been ill. But, my mother had warned us sternly that we were not to tell anyone that we had gotten the “shot.”