As a leading edge baby boomer, I was nine in 1955, when my Dad uttered those exciting words, but I still remember my excitement like it was yesterday. Dad had a surprise for me! A new bowling alley had opened in our town, and Dad wanted to take me bowling.
I was a happy kid as Dad and I walked out to his car. I was quite surprised, though, when he parked it at a familiar spot, Dr. Ben’s house. We walked in to his medical office, located on the second floor of the house, and I was told that I needed to get an injection. Dr. Ben’s office smelled like a cigar parlor because he generally smoked a giant stogie while he examined you. But why did I need a shot? I wasn’t sick! And, I absolutely, in no uncertain terms, hated, and feared shots. The needles hurt!
It was a new vaccine for Polio, a disease about which I knew absolutely nothing, and I was going to be one of the first kids in my town to get the shot. Shots, of any kind, were quite unpleasant, and I suddenly realized that going to the new bowling alley, had been a ruse, although we did, in fact, wind up there. I don’t remember anything about the bowling, however. My arm was too sore.
Polio was a very feared disease in the 50s. It struck in the summer months resulting in epidemics every few years. While most infected people recovered quickly, polio could result in both temporary and permanent paralysis, and in its worst case, it resulted in death. Treatment could include the Emerson iron lung, but that large machine was quite expensive. An iron lung could cost as much as an average home.
Dr. Jonas Salk was the medical genius whom I will never forget, and the rest is history. I wasn’t a good bowler, either.