On Thursday 7 November 1918, D.W. Sutherland the Major of Kelowna in Canada had the following restrictive measures published in the newspaper: “Notice is hereby given that, in order to prevent the spread of Spanish Influenza, all schools, public and private, churches, theatres, moving picture halls, pool rooms and other places of amusement, and lodge meetings, are to be closed until further notice. All public gatherings consisting of ten or more are prohibited.”
Incredible how history repeats itself. Makes me think of Solomon’s words of wisdom in Eccl 1:9-10 “Whatever has happened before will happen again. Whatever has been done before will be done again.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Can you say that anything is new? It has already been here long before us.”
1918 Spanish Flu
Towards the end of World War 1 (WW1) in 1918 when peace was on the horizon, many returning troops carried the flu virus back into their own countries, but amidst all the action it went somewhat unnoticed at first.
Although we may have serious concerns about the current lockdown, the conditions seems to have been much worse then than now. Immediately after the four years of WW1 (1914-1918) with an estimated nine million combatant and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, the Spanish Flu or “La Grippe” pandemic hit the world, killing another estimated 20 to 50 million people during the next two years. (It was called the Spanish flu because of the large number of mortalities in Spain.)
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. 1918 would go down as an unforgettable year of suffering and death and yet of peace.
The effect of the influenza epidemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years. One story shared of 1918 was of four women playing bridge together late into the night. Overnight, three of the women died from influenza.
Some news making headlines in 1918 and 1919 sounded very familiar to what we hear today:
- Some thought the virus have originated in China.
- Some of the allies thought of the epidemic as a biological warfare tool of the Germans.
- A study attempted to reason why the disease had been so devastating in certain localized regions, looked at the climate.
- Since the medical practitioners were away with the troops, only the medical students were left to care for the sick. Third and fourth year classes were closed and the students were assigned jobs as interns or nurses.
- The public health departments distributed gauze masks to be worn in public.
- Stores could not hold sales, funerals were limited to 15 minutes.
- Those who ignored the flu ordinances had to pay steep fines enforced by extra officers.
But things changed drastically from 1920 as a new dawn was breaking.
# The 1920’s
At first, the end of wartime production caused a brief but deep recession; the post–World War 1 recession of 1919-20. Quickly, however, the economies of the U.S. and Canada rebounded as returning soldiers re-entered the labor force and ammunition factories were retooled to produce consumer goods.
Then followed a decade of economic growth and widespread prosperity known as the “Roaring Twenties.” It was a decade of economic growth and widespread prosperity, driven by recovery from wartime devastation and deferred spending, a boom in construction, and the rapid growth of consumer goods such as automobiles and electricity in North America and Europe and a few other developed countries.
After the cancellation of the 1916 Olympic Games due to WW1, the 1920 Games was the first in eight years. The Olympic flag as we know it today was first hoisted in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium at the Summer Olympics in the main stadium with the five rings representing the five continents of the world.
The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius, the Latin for
faster, higher, stronger,
which was first introduced at the 1924 Olympics in Paris by the IOC president Pierre de Coubertin. He also coined the phrase,
“The important thing in the Olympic Games is not so much the winning but taking part, for the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”
Another roaring 20’s at hand?
In this spirit let us all do our part to help fight the COVID-19 virus and after this ordeal, may we all experience another history repeat, another “Roaring Twenties.” But the over spending during the roaring twenties led to the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Should we relive another roaring twenties, let us not fall in the same trap.
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