Poems during the 1918 Spanish Flu

It was difficult times during the Spanish Flu across America from 1918 into 1919. Not only was the ‘Great War’ still happening in 1918 but this deadly flu created fear in every household.

American many times used humor to help ease the stress of a time period and this was done during the Spanish Flu.

Not having Facebook, TV, Twitter as today, our ancestors turned to poems, prose, songs and quips about epidemics to help provide some emotional support due to isolation, sickness and deaths. Actually using the name ‘Spanish Fly’ is a misnomer, it may have started in nearby France and since many of the nations of Europe were in the war effort they didn’t want the population frighten, so only in Spain (who was not in the war) wrote in their newspapers about this disease.

In America, our ancestors faced: isolation, the temporary closure of schools and businesses, the proliferation of illness and death, and the cancellation of sports. Theaters, churches, and other closed-in public places were shuttered, in some cases for an entire year, lest the bacteria spread in such tightly packed spaces. Even funerals were limited to 15 minutes. People got creative and came up with some cute poems which would appear in local and national newspapers. Society wore face masks, kept their distance from others, and avoided crowds. So many of the poems related to those behaviors.

For the masks: “‘Flu’ masks improve the appearance of many men, but when worn by women, they take much of the joy and beauty out of life.”

For keeping ones’ distance from crowds and going places there was:

“The street crowd surged—but where to go?
The bar? The concert? Movies? No!
Old Influenza’s locked the door to Pleasure Land.
Oh what a bore!”
Oh, we are quarantined, I guess
For ‘bout a million years
But if we don’t get out of here
We’ll burst right out in tears”

Always worried about catching the Spanish Flu, this was written:
The toothpaste didn’t taste right—
Spanish Flu!” The bath soap burned my eyes—
Spanish Flu! My beard seemed to have grown pretty fast and tough overnight—
Spanish Flu!”

“Have you stumped one of your toes? Have you just a bleeding nose? Or no matter what your woes—Spanish Flu.”

There was ragtime music also with the title “Influenza Blues.”

Also a children’s chant was very popular:

“I had a little bird, it’s name was enza, I opened the window, and in-flu-enza.”

Photos: Hospitals for Spanish Flu victims; closing of theatres; a ragtime music and a children’s chant.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Your Ancestors and the Spanish Flu

Great Grandparents in 1918 – Pt 1

Great Grandparents in 1918 – PT 2

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