Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Adin Baker, World War One and the Spanish Influenza, By Aunt CB and Pat Kinsella Herdeg

Adin Baker wanted to travel ‘round the world as he was growing up in central New York State; finally, his travel bug still strongly in place, and no doubt, patriotic to boot, Adin joined the Army in June of 1918. Attached to the 152nd Division Medical Allentown Replacement Unit One, he was sent to England.

In October, just as his squad was ordered over to France (from London), Adin became sick and was ordered to escort another very ill veteran back to New York City; in the city, surrounded by beds of other sick soldiers, doctors realized that Adin was in the far advanced throes of Spanish influenza, a very lethal strain.

The influenza pandemic--"Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe"— actually didn't originate in Spain - it got its name because at the time, Spain wasn't involved in the war and had not imposed wartime censorship, thus it received great press attention there.

The Spanish Flu killed more people than World War I itself-- somewhere between 20 and 40 million people, according to Molly Billings of Stanford University.

Billings continues: ‘In the fall of 1918 the Great War in Europe was winding down and peace was on the horizon. The Americans had joined in the fight, bringing the Allies closer to victory against the Germans. Deep within the trenches these men lived through some of the most brutal conditions of life, which it seemed could not be any worse. Then, in pockets across the globe, something erupted that seemed as benign as the common cold. The influenza of that season, however, was far more than a cold. In the two years that this scourge ravaged the earth, a fifth of the world's population was infected.

It infected 28% of all Americans. An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war.

1918 would go down as unforgettable year of suffering and death and yet of peace.’

Closer to home, the Spanish flu entered Syracuse at the State Fairgrounds, or Camp Syracuse, where hundreds of World War I soldiers were returning from Europe. When the worst was over, more than 900 people in Syracuse died of infection and pneumonia. In a federal survey of how many deaths per capita, Syracuse was in the top five, tied for third with Boston.

In Buffalo, the toll of the epidemic topped 2,000. Albany's death toll was over 500. In Rochester, 213 people died from the flu in one week.

Back in Center Lisle, Kate and Byron received a telegram stating that their only son was near death in New York City with flu. Byron hot footed it down but by the time he arrived, Kate had already been told that Adin had “turned the corner”.

Later, volunteers wrote notes to his parents of Adin’s progress. He was discharged in January of 1919.

Having gotten a taste of travel, Adin now took to traveling the country by rail, ‘hobo-ing around’. Center Lisle, New York, and the farm would have to wait.

Picture One: Adin in uniform
Picture Two: St Nicholas magazine cover, a magazine for children
Picture Three: Spanish Flu victims, hopefully recovering
Picture Four: On the Homefront —Would one year old Aunt Leona be fed hominy?


Sue Kinsella said...

Fascinating! Do you happen to have the notes that volunteers wrote about Adin's progress? Do you know any of the hobo stories and where he went? Wow, I wish he were still here so I could ask him for stories!

Kathryn said...

Happy day in between, Uncle Adin!!
On this day, the Wood kids (Chic, Kathryn, Gail and Michael) would walk thru the pasture to Uncle Adin's house. We brought him a silver dollar for his birthday. He collected them. Then he would take us to Whitney Point to the ice cream stand. He bought us ice cream cones for MY birthday.
We celebrated this way many years.

Sue Kinsella said...

What a lovely concept, "Day In Between"! I love that idea, and the image of the Wood kids traipsing through the pasture from their house to Adin's. I am so looking forward to the Reunion at the end of August!

Happy Day Before Birthday, Kathryn!

Love, Sue