Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Polio Vaccine

            In 1894, the first polio epidemic swept through America. In the following decades outbreaks cropped up every few years, usually during the warm summer months. Polio, which affected the nervous and muscular system, was particularly dangerous for children. In the early 1900s, thousands of children were crippled by the disease; others were placed in Iron Lungs to help them breathe after the disease paralyzed their lungs.  One of the most famous victims of Polio was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who became paralyzed after the disease spread to the muscles in his legs.
In the 1950s, a vaccine for the disease was discovered by Jonas Salk. And in 1955, the government mandated Polio vaccinations across the nation. So, along with children across the country, nearly 700 first and second grade children from Junction City and the rural county schools were immunized with the Salk Anti- Polio Vaccine at the City-County Health Center.  And boy, they were not happy about it!
                Each child received an unpleasant shot—which made it difficult to sit for the next few days—and the Daily Union was there to capture it on camera. Along with a photograph of children lined up to register for their immunization with their mothers, the Daily Union also published a photograph of two children in the middle of the trying ordeal.
                As if getting the shot wasn’t enough!  Jimmy Donahoo and Janet Marie O’Neill both had their pictures taken while receiving the vaccination, which would later be printed in the local paper.  Janet Marie O’Neill, a second grader at St. Xavier’s school, had her photo taken during her first dose of the shot. The poor little daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marvin O’Neill hid part of her face in her pillow as two nurses administered the shot. Jimmy, who lived at on W. 8th St. at the time of the vaccinations, didn’t hide his face, but he did not look too happy about the whole ordeal as Dr. Bunker is seen injecting him with the vaccine.  The immunization required multiple doses and Jimmy was one of 413 children to receive the second shot.  Dr. H.L. Bunker Jr. and Mrs. Jackie Hammer were among the health officials to administer the shots to the county’s children.
Nearly 4 million shots were administered across the nation in 1955. Cases of polio in the U.S. dropped from 14,647 in 1955 to 5,894 in 1956, and by 1959 some 90 other countries were using Salk's vaccine.  For the children of Geary County, the shot they received was an unpleasant experience, only slightly sweetened by the lollipop they received for their pain, but because of the immunizations of the 1950s, Polio is considered an eradicated disease in the Western Hemisphere today.
                Were you one of the 700 children in the Geary County area to receive a polio vaccination in 1955? If so, the Geary County Historical Society would love to hear your story!

                Interested in learning more about early medical procedures? Stop into the museum this February to explore a new display, "Healing Geary County," to discover more about medicine in 20th Century Geary County. The Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday 1-4pm.

Janet Marie O’Neill hides behind her pillow as she receives her first immunization, while Jimmy Donahoo stoically receives his second shot from Dr. Bunker and Mrs. Hammer.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kansas Day!

Kansas day is right around the corner, January 29th, and the museum is gearing up for the big day. The museum participates all over the school district by bringing our traveling trunks to classrooms to share state and local history with the children.
Do you wonder why we celebrate Kansas Day? It is to celebrate our unique history and to wish Kansas a happy birthday. Kansas became the 34th state on January 29, 1861.
Kansas Day was started in 1877 by Alexander Copley a teacher in Paola who wanted to make Kansas history come alive for his students. He challenged the students to find as much information about the state as they could. The students spent two weeks reading through books, and asking questions of family, friends and the community. On January 29th he gave the students the opportunity to show what they had learned. The only downside to the day was that the school room was too small to accommodate everyone who wished to hear the presentations.
Two years later Copley became the superintendent of schools in Wichita and the popularity of the day quickly spread.
In 1882 the first Northwestern Teachers Association was held in Beloit. At the meeting it was decided that a small pamphlet should be published to give educators information about the state that could be used to celebrate the day. Two thousand copies of the pamphlet, called Kansas Day, were printed by Del Valentine, of the Clay Center Dispatch. Every teacher in the state received one and it was briefly used as a textbook in the state normal school in Emporia.  
So how much Kansas trivia do you know? Don’t worry we have some to share with you.  Here are some fun facts to jump-start your learning about this great state:
  • Part of Kansas was included in the Louisiana Purchase. President Thomas Jefferson bought the land from the French with no idea of what was there. He sent the Lewis and Clark expedition to explore the new territory. During their expedition they passed through the eastern edge of Kansas. 
  • Kansas takes its name from a tribe of Native American Indians, the Kansa, whose name means “People of the South Wind”. They are also referred to as the Kaw.
  • There were many other tribes living in the territory that would become Kansas; the Osage, the Pawnee, and the Quivira all had permanent villages. Many tribes had hunting grounds in the western plains such as the Comanche, Kiowa, Arapahoe, Southern Cheyenne, Cuartelejo Apache and the Kiowa Apache. These tribes are known as the plains Indians. They are more nomadic and followed the buffalo herds.
  • The Spanish introduced horses to the plains. Horses changed the way the plains Indians traveled and hunted.
  • Leavenworth is the oldest city in Kansas.
  • The First Territorial Capital was built at Pawnee near Fort Riley by the first territorial governor, Andrew Reeder. At the first and only legislative session to take place at Pawnee laws with severe consequences were passed for anyone caught helping to free slaves. Many called these “Bogus Laws” because many of the pro-slavery supporters who voted were border jumpers and did not have the right to vote.         
  • The city of Codell may have the worst luck when it comes to tornadoes. They were struck on May 20 of 1916, 1917 and 1918.
  • Dodge City is the windiest city in the state and is in fact windier than Chicago.
  •  Kansas was the first state to have an African American infantry regiment. The First Regiment Kansas Colored Infantry was formed in August 1862. Despite nationwide resistance to the group being acknowledged as a part of the military they quickly saw action, a portion of the regiment engaged in battle with a rebel force at Butler, Missouri during the fall of 1862.
  • In 1958 Frank and Dan Carney opened the first Pizza Hut in Wichita, Kansas. By 1972 there were a thousand restaurants throughout the United States. The Pizza Hut in Manhattan’s Aggieville is the longest operating Pizza Hut in its original location. In 1973 the chain went international when the first United Kingdom Pizza Hut was opened in Islington, London.
  • In the late 1950’s Omar Knedlik owned a Dairy Queen in Coffeyville, Kansas. Not having a soda fountain he would keep the soda in the freezer sometimes until it froze. His customers loved this frozen soda drink. You can now buy it at almost any gas station it is called an ICEE.
  • Walter Chrysler who started the car manufacturer Chrysler Corporation was born in Wamego and grew up in Ellis.
  • Jess Willard was born in Pottawatomie County and became the world champion boxer when he defeated Jack Johnson in 1915.
  • Mort Walker known as the creator of the comic strip “Beetle Baily” was born in Kansas.
            There is so much more to learn about our state. Stop by the museum around Kansas Day and share with us your favorite Kansas facts. We love learning more about our favorite state.
Milford lake is the largest man-made lake in Kansas with a surface area of 16,200 acres and a maximum depth of 65 feet.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What is this crazy machine? The x-ray comes to Geary County.


The doctors of Geary County have been well documented in the past, particularly the Doctors O’Donnell, Smiley, and of course, Brinkley, but what was surprising to me as I read more on the topic was the large number and range of doctors that practiced in such a condensed area. Perhaps it was an antiquated idea that I had in my head from watching too many westerns as a child, but it was so easy to imagine the one, or maybe two, kindly doctors that traveled around the whole of the city to administer relief.  But this was not the case for Junction City and its surrounding areas. In fact, the at the turn of the 20th century, Junction City boasted over a dozen doctors—at least two who were well respected female doctors—a handful of dentists, and surgeons that specialized in anesthesia, eye care, and—in 1897—the art of the x-ray.

            Dr. D. J. Moyer, the town’s oldest physician, took special care to keep informed on all the latest medical advances, like the x-ray. He was known for taking frequent trips back east, and even traveling Europe, in order to make sure his patients had the most modern care possible. Which is why it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise when, in November of 1897, The Daily Union reported that Dr. Moyer had purchased an x-ray machine.

            At the time, the x-ray was the most modern of inventions. The practice had only been discovered in 1895 by a German university professor, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen. It was an easy procedure to recreate with the current technology of the time and the x-ray spread quickly among scientists and doctors.

            But in 1897, the x-ray was still a foreign idea to the Geary County community. The Junction City x-ray was only the third in the entire state and there was wide spread skepticism over the science behind the device. After all, how could a machine see through solid flesh to your bones? So, in order to assure the community that the x-ray did indeed do what it promised, Drs. Moyer and Yates offered free trials at their clinic.

            The Daily Union took part in the free trials and printed this assurance for their readers: “If anyone has doubts as to being able to see through his hand, a trial will clear up any such doubtings. Two inches of cotton-batting or an inch of board cut no figure. The bones of the hand show up plainly just the same. It is so clearly shown that one can see the joints of the fingers and hand so plainly that the hand very much resembles a skeleton. One can see the shoulder joint move just about as plainly.”

            So, despite any hesitancy the community may have initially had for the x-ray, by December of the same year, people were traveling into Junction City in order to have their bones set using the x-ray. The Daily Union reported one event when Mrs. D.B. Jenkins of White City brought her daughter Gracie to have her broken arm set.  Little Gracie Jenkins was able to return home with her arm set straight and the Union declared “The machine’s work was most gratifying and satisfactory.”  

            Interested in learning more about the doctors and nurses of Junction City? Stop by the museum this February to see the new exhibit, Healing Geary County and discover what it was like to be a horse-and-buggy doctor at the turn of the 20th century. Open Tuesday-Sunday 1-4pm.

Early x-ray machine circa 1890-1900

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Brrrr -26 in Junction City

With the arctic blast we got last week many may think that this is the first time that this area has ever experienced such extreme cold. However in the museums scrap book collection there is an article dated January 4, 1947 that reports the temperature reached twenty-six degrees below zero that morning.

 “This almost-unbelievably cold temperature was reached about 7 a.m. after a steady drop throughout the night, according to L.W. Sargent, local weather observer.”

 The Sargent family had for many years been the local weather observers.  It had started with Linden who was famous throughout the state for his “goose bone” weather forecasts. He claimed that he could tell the severity of approaching storms by the markings on the breast bone of a freshly butchered goose. His obituary states “The secret to reading these bones was learned from the Indians in the early days in Junction City.”  

His son Les, also known as L.W., was also interested in weather patterns. At the age of 18 Les started keeping weather information. In 1947 Les had served as Junction City’s official U.S. Weather Bureau observer for around 20 years. Les owned all of his own equipment except for a rain gage on loan from the U.S. Weather Bureau. Every day he would record the wind, maximum and minimum temperature, and the precipitation including in what form the precipitation fell.     

            The article notes that this weather beat the previous record low in recent years of twenty below in 1943.

Near zero weather all day on Friday set the stage for the record temperature. The highest temperature reading Friday afternoon was 8 degrees Fahrenheit. By 5 pm the temperature had dropped to zero and was falling fast. At 6pm “the mercury stood at 3 below, 12 below at 9 pm, 18 below at 10:30 pm, 24 below at 5” that morning. The coldest measurable temperature was 26 below zero at 7 am.

            The temperature slowly started to rise as the sun came out. By 8:30 am the temperature had risen by 1 degree and by 9:30 am it was 17 below zero.

            Accompanying the cold was a relatively calm day which mitigated the cold to some extent. At 8:30 am it was observed that there was not even enough of a breeze to move the smoke from the chimneys.        

            This was observed by many as they tried in vain to start cars that refused to budge in the frigid temperatures. It was noted that “taxis did a flourishing business” as they hauled passengers to work and other errands.

            “Plumbers, who have been kept on the run all week with frozen water pipes, had a new flood of call this morning.”

            Mechanics were “kept busy thawing frozen motor cars and conditioning them for the Artic-type weather.” Tow trucks were much in evidence around town that day also.

            Many old timers were not much impressed with the frigid temperature as they remembered lows of 30 below zero in 1911 and 1898.

            The article concludes that all main roads were open in Junction City but that the county engineer’s office reported a few side roads were still blocked by drifts in eastern Geary County. Some areas were cleared only enough for a single car to pass and it would take several more days before they will be completed. Plow operators had been clearing the roads up until 4 am and were back on the job today.