Children's Songs' Popularity in 1918

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Children's Songs' Popularity in 1918

A brief review of the historical year of 1918 when people were informed to take precaution against influenza, while their children came up with a catchy tune for the "worst epidemic the United States has ever known"1 and comparing it with the influenza of today.


I had a little bird,

Its name was Enza,

I opened the window

In 'flu' Enza.

What is the truth behind the song mentioned above that children sing so often during those days? Ironic how the soldiers who came home from the war not only brought life, for they came back alive, but also brought what will soon become the death of so many. It all started in March of the year 1918 in which at Fort Riley located in the state of Kansas, an Army private reported symptoms such as headache, fever, as well as sore throat. It seemed like mild symptoms but by noon the count of soldiers who were ill of the same symptoms totaled up to one-hundred.2 Doctors everywhere were puzzled about what might be causing this illness.

What soon came to be known as the Spanish influenza came also to be known as the "worst epidemic the United States has ever known." More soldiers from the war died from this influenza than from combat on the field. One of the earliest victims of the flu came from sailors who resided on the Receiving Ship at Commonwealth Pier in Boston (August 1918) in which the situation gave the flu the advantage of eventually spreading throughout the civilian population. But of course, people were first advised that there was nothing to worry about. According to "Dr. William Hassler, Chief of San Francisco's Board of Health had gone so far as to predict that the flu would not even reach the city."3 But within such urban, crowded cities such as Boston and Philadelphia, it was inevitable that this illness would turn into an epidemic. In Philadelphia of September 1918, new cases of influenza were recorded from the civilian population days after a parade. As a result, Philadelphia was forced to admit that the city has fallen under the Spanish influenza epidemic.4 The severity of this epidemic began to become apparent and so precautions were made--any public places in which crowds of people were able to accumulate were considered "off limits.

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