Monday, April 20, 2020

1918, A Horrible Year

I recently read a book titled FLU, The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It, written by Gina Kolata.

This book has perched on my shelves among others on medical topics for years. I bought it at our local Half Price Books on the off chance that it might come in handy at some point with my writing. Now, with the Coronavirus sweeping the US, including where I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, I pulled Ms. Kolata’s book off the shelf.

Kolata was a microbiology major in college and took a course in virology. She also took some history classes, including one about important 20th century events. In none of these classes was the 1918 pandemic discussed. Nor did she ever write about it in her years at Science magazine and later at the New York Times.

All of this despite the fact that the Spanish Flu, as it was called, killed more Americans in one year (the CDC estimates 675,00 and 50 million worldwide) than all those killed in battle in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined.

After reading this, I decided to search online for info about the 1918 Flu in Texas. I found an article relating its deadly effects on Waco, which is 96 miles south of Dallas. You can read it here:

Makeshift influenza wards were set up, many of them at military hospitals, all over the country, including the infirmary at Camp MacArthur, in Waco. (Baylor University Texas Collection)

Then I came across an article from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, BY BUD KENNEDY (ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCT. 14, 2014.)

In 1918, Dallas and Fort Worth weren’t worried about the flu. In a month, 1,200 died

Quoting Bud Kennedy:

At first, leaders were calm.
“The general health situation in Dallas is good,” city health officer Dr. A.W. Carnes said.
It was September 1918.
But by October’s end, more than 1,200 Dallas and Fort Worth residents lay dead.
That month, a flu pandemic swept through both cities, closing schools, theaters, streetcars, even churches.
In an age before transatlantic air travel, the Spanish flu knew no borders.
Soldiers training at the old U.S. Army Camp Bowie in what is now the Arlington Heights neighborhood west of downtown Fort Worth were among the hardest hit.
More than 1,900 were treated at once in makeshift tents.
Early in the outbreak, soldiers were barred from going to “picture shows, dance halls, pool rooms, theaters” and “gathering in canteens, in tents, quarters or other places.”
“This is the way the epidemic usually starts,” said the camp surgeon, Maj. J.G. Ingold.
Soldiers were told to sleep 5 feet apart to prevent infection.
Yet that Sept. 29, the Star-Telegram had this headline: “Bowie Officers Not Alarmed.”
“Soldiers all over the camp furled their tents and stayed outdoors all day,” the report read. “There have been no deaths.”
In Dallas, Carnes let crowds line the streets for a parade.
Six days later, the Star-Telegram headline read: “Hospital Roll Reaches 1,908.”

I won’t quote the rest of Bud Kennedy’s tragic timeline here for fear of encroaching on his copyrights, but I strongly suggest you read his whole article and think about our situation now. Several photos are included.

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and paranormal romantic suspense novels, all spiced with sensual romance. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and two very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged babies.

Amazon Author Page: (universal link)  
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 


  1. Lyn, what a timely article. I had no idea the death toll was that high compared to all those wars. So tragic! There are many lessons there for us to learn.

    1. Sadly true, Caroline. One lesson to keep in mind is that the 1918 pandemic first appeared in late winter and spring, then roared back in a more deadly form that fall. And experts are warning that the coronavirus may rear do the same thing. God forbid!

  2. This flu was a big part of my family story. My grandmother's brother died from it. Her daughters, including my mother, were sick with it. I don't think my grandmother got sick with it as she nursed her children through it and told the story of how her little brother died. There was so little back then that could be done for the sick.

    1. Rain, how awful for your family. Recalling your grandmother's story their suffering must give you shivers when you relate it to what's happening now. It does me.


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