Thanks so much for the great response to this blog!
A special thank you to those who have passed it on to others. We are heading quickly to amazing page visits to this blog! Welcome to folks from all over the country and other countries as well, including Lisbon!!

The "Village", as it was called, is located in the northwest corner of the city of Taunton, Massachusetts U.S.A. It covers about 1 square mile with the center being School Street. A large portion of the Village population was Portuguese when I was growing up.

This blog covers a lot of the history of the Village, much to do with my years as a child there: 1940 through the late 1950's. I do have many wonderful photos and information prior to that that and will share those as well. Always looking for MORE PHOTOS AND MORE STORIES TO TELL.

If you would like to send photos or share a memory of growing up in the Village
e-mail me at
feel free to comment on the posts. Directions are on the right side of the blog posts. Jump in, the water is fine and it is easy!!!

I will be posting photographs but not identifying individuals unless I have permission or they are a matter of public record. It you wish to give me permission, please let me know.

I am looking for any and all photos of the Village...

Please note: the way blogs work is that the latest post is first. It you would like to start from the beginning of the blog, check out the post labels on the right of the blog and go from there. Thanks.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ebola and Yesteryear: the Fight Against Disease and the Lessons we Once Knew.

Recently, my husband and I were comparing the fight against the diseases of the 50's with the current struggle against Ebola facing this country and, indeed, the world. It is he who remembered the post I had written last year about the U.S. fight to conquer Polio.   We were then reading the Wall St. Journal and the article The Last Epidemic.  (Oct-18-19, 2014).

                                                             That inspired this post.

 I am offering again an earlier post in my blog: A Tauntonian and the Fight Against Polio which I published last September.  It gives us a comparison between then and now.

We can all draw our own conclusions.  There is no question that once we were united in so many ways, and the lines were not drawn in the sand.  They could not be, the futures of our children
were at stake.

I highly recommend the article in the WSJ.   Let's put it this way. the first two sentences are "In the winter of 1947, an American tourist arrived in New York City on a bus from Mexico, feeling feverish and stiff.  He checked into a hotel and did some sightseeing before his condition worsened...He went to a local hospital....he died a few days later of smallpox." People immediately volunteered to be vaccinated. There was no panic, the article goes on.  The public had a high regard for the public health apparatus that had served them so well.

Americans lined up for smallpox vaccine in 1947

In the fight against Polio, Americans channeled their fears into a common purpose, as they did in 1947 with the Smallpox scare. Let's revisit my earlier post and once again find inspiration.

                                    A TAUNTONIAN AND THE FIGHT AGAINST POLIO
                                                    Published in this blog, Sept. 13, 2013

When I wrote the last post discussing the polio epidemic, I had no idea I would learn what the connection was between Taunton and the successful battle to fight that disease.  This is when this blog is at its best, when someone comes forward with information that just bursts at the seams to complete what has been started here.

This post was inspired by Arlene Gouveia who knew of the story of Tauntonian, Basil O'Connor and shared it with me to share with you.  It received research help from Aaron Cushman from The Reference Department at the Taunton Public Library. It is a real collaborative effort.   This information came to me from Arlene after the first post on Village Healthy was posted.  It is fascinating Taunton history ..who knew?  Not me!

Who knew that a product of the Taunton School System way back in the early 1900's was a man who was pivotal in winning the war against polio?  His name:  Basil O'Connor.

                                                          oil portrait of Basil O'Connor
                                                         archival: Taunton Public Library

Born in Taunton in January, 1892 to parents Daniel Basil and Elizabeth Ann (O'Gorham) O'Connor who lived on Highland St. in Taunton,  Basil's himself said that " he was a generation away from servitude."  As a youngster, he was a Taunton Gazette newsboy and later an odd job painter who also worked weekends at the Colby Clothing Store in downtown Taunton where he earned $6.25 a week.

The story of this boy born and raised in Taunton and educated in Taunton Schools (he was a 1908 graduate of Taunton High School, business manager of the Taunton High Journal) is a true example of the American Dream.  By the time he passed away at age 80 he had been decorated by 19 foreign governments,  He earned numerous honorary law degrees and high awards.  When asked by someone why he did not go into politics, he replied:"Polio makes no political distinctions nor do flood fire and famine.  Why should I? " (newspaper report: 1954).  He was a sponsor and member of the General Assembly of World Brotherhood and in 1959 became a member of the United States Committee for the United Nations. He served as Chairman of the American Red Cross and chairman of the Board of trustees at the Tuskagee Institute.

To get back to our story.  Basil O'Connor went to Dartmouth College and Harvard after Taunton High and became a lawyer going to practice in New York City.  There he met another young lawyer : Franklin Delanor Roosevelt.  Do you see where this is going?  After FDR contracted polio, he made his friend Basil, second in command of the Georgia Warm Springs Rehabilitation Center where FDR rehabilitated and then put him in charge of the biggest medical fund raising in the country's history:  The March of Dimes. An interesting side note is that there is a possibility FDR had Guillian-Barre Syndrome vs Polio. G.B. is a viral complication which can have serious complications. Who knows,  it still served to mobilize a nation led by FDR and our Tauntonian,  Basil O'Connor.

The March of Dimes was the largest fundraiser for a disease in U.S. history at that time.  Radio messages urged people to send their dime to the White House to fight polio. Then the mothers of America each evening canvased neighborhoods across the nation, fighting for their children and the war against Polio. The March of Times revolutionized fundraising in America: raising $1,800, 000 the first campaign.  In 1954, they collected $66.9 million more.

                                                     Basil and FDR in 1844 (Wikopedia)
                                                     Notice the pile of dimes on the desk.

The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis  went on with Basil O'Connor as chair.
As time went on Mr. O'Connor was pivotal in noticing Dr. Jonas Salk and invited
him to work with the foundation. The rest is history. 

 In spite of the serious setback of a bad batch of the vaccine in California resulting in some deaths, Basil and his scientists continued on to succeed in vaccinating the children
of this great nation and eventually eradicating Polio here.

                                                 Basil O'Connor still at work with  JFK
                                                     Archival: Taunton Public Library
Basil O'Connor had a sister, Mary, who taught in the Taunton School system for 52 years keeping the family roots in Taunton at 159 Highland St. firmly planted. meeting  Basil O'Connor died on in March 1972, at the age of 80 while getting ready for a meeting of the Foundation's
Scientific Committee meeting the next day.

           With the help of You Tube here is an interview by Basil O'Connor himself.
              Step back in history, this was obviously recorded early in the Polio campaign for a cure.
I unfortunately do not have a date, but would hazard early 1950's.


Postscript:  the article quoted earlier in the post in the Wall St Journal ends on this note:

  "What seems most apparent at this early point is the yawning chasm between public health officials and the public at large....   Next week marks the 100th birthday of Jonas Salk.   Shortly after his vaccine was declared successful, he gave a nationally televised interview with Edward R. Morrow.  'Who owns the patent on this vaccine,' Morrow asked, 'Well, the people I would say,'Salk replied.  'There is no patent.  Could you patent the sun?'

"For Dr. Salk, the whole endeavor was a gift from science to humanity, nurtured by the goodness of the American people.  We must find ways to keep that spirit alive - winning back for modern medicine and public health the full confidence of the world most generous nation."

              For me, this gives the term, "Ah, the good old days" a whole new meaning.    


                                                         The Last Epidemic:

                                 The Smallpox Scare of 1947. Photo from that site.

                                                  My Post from September 13, 2013

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