Mae McCullam Smith

Pandemic Influenza Storybook

Storyteller: Susan Van Vonno

Location: Pennsylvania

Illustration of a fruit stand with oranges

My mother, Mae McCullam Smith, was born in 1908 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mae had an older brother, Leslie, born in 1898 and three sisters; Ruth born in 1900, Myrtle born in 1904, and Phyllis born in 1910.

In 1918, the family was living in the Philadelphia suburbs and Mae′s father, Samuel McCullam, owned a business in the city. Sometime toward the end of that year, the whole family, except for Samuel, came down with the flu. My mother said she had never been that sick again. They all just lay in their beds and even her mother, May, couldn′t care for the kids. There was a lot of coughing going on all through the house. Samuel continued to work and everyday on his way home from the city, he would stop at the bus terminal and buy oranges. Mae didn′t remember eating anything else, except those oranges. And then, one night, Samuel came home and was in the bathroom when they all heard a thud. Yes, he was down for the count! Samuel joined the rest of his sick family in bed.

Luckily, they all survived and Mae lived to be 94 years of age. I was always grateful that she shared this story with me.