T I M E T R A V E L L E R
Columbia Street military parade, ca. 1918 The pool hall and bowling alley in the background might have been Jonathan Bone’s shop at 427 Columbia. Billiard rooms were closed during the 1918 flu pandemic. The flu itself made it to the Lower Mainland via soldiers and travellers from other parts of Canada. IHP2875
The 1918 Flu in New Westminster
In 1918 - 1919, the so-called Spanish flu ravaged the world, killing tens of millions of people. This flu was not actually Spanish: the first reported case occurred in March 1918 in Kansas. This deadly flu reached the Lower Mainland on October 3, 1918, when 560 Siberian Expeditionary Force soldiers disembarked a train at Port Coquitlam for quarantine. Five days later, the first cases were reported in New West: a young girl caught it on a train from Calgary and others were quarantined in Queen’s Park, totalling almost fifty cases. The city already had experience from that spring’s chicken pox and measles epidemics. In light of this, Dr. Charles Edward Doherty, Medical Superintendent of Woodlands, ordered 2000 masks. The school trustees also closed the schools that day, but the city did not have the power to close the theatres. Patients with confirmed and suspected cases had one floor in the Royal Columbian Hospital and beds in the Queens Park military hospital and at St. Mary’s, a hospital on Merivale. The first patient to die was a traveller from the Russell Hotel. At midnight on October 17, the city prohibited public and “semi-public” gatherings like dances and whist drives, except for a Victory Loan meeting at the opera house. The city closed all public institutions: schools, theatres, churches, lodges, billiard rooms, and other gathering places. Restaurants stayed open with signs to eat fast and leave. Barbershops, “soft drink emporiums” and cigar stands stayed open too. Street cars drove with either windows or ventilators open; they were disinfected daily. Other precautions match what we are experiencing today with Covid-19: washing hands, quarantining and self-isolating, wearing masks, and using disinfectants. Yet there were a few differences. For example: “Discharges from the nose and mouth should not be allowed to get dry on a pocket handkerchief or inside the house, office or factory. They should at once be collected in paper or clean rags and burned. If this cannot be done, they should be dropped into a vessel containing water.” On November 19, just before noon, many restrictions were lifted in New Westminster and other parts of the Lower Mainland. Fifteen minutes later, the Vancouver Sun reported that pool halls opened their doors again. The dance halls and theatres opened that same night, while schools and churches opened a few days later. However, influenza deaths continued to be reported in the newspapers.
Naomi Briggs on Irving House balcony, ca. 1914 Almost a month after the flu reached the Lower Mainland, almost all the nurses were infected with the virus. A call went out for volunteers, especially trained nurses. Naomi Briggs of Irving House joined the effort; she received an award of honour in February 1919 for her efforts. IFP0216
firstname.lastname@example.org mustard plasters, which the English newspapers of the time called a “Chinese method of cauterizing.” IHP10166-001 Chinese Benevolent Association building, May 2, 1957 The CBA building on Agnes Street was also known as the Chinese Hospital and, during the first month of the pandemic, found itself targeted by the medical health officer. The hospital was closed after two men died there within hours of each other; one of the men had undergone some “counter irritant” treatment comparable to the Western use of
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