Aren’t Soldiers Handy, Tho? – getting a deadly virus and living to tell about it

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Victor Clark – image from Clark Family History website

LUBBOCK, Texas — Lubbock on Thursday morning remained under an emergency declaration as did Texas and the United States.

At the time of this article, the official case count in Texas was 974 with 12 deaths. Also at the time of this article, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported 491,623 cases worldwide with 22,169 deaths.

A previous generation of Americans was no stranger to a fast-spreading deadly virus. The badly-named Spanish Flu killed millions worldwide.

In December 1918 Lubbock Mayor C. E. Parks issued a proclamation — declaring a quarantine of all persons in the city and prohibiting social, religious, recreational, school or other meetings.

One staff member at EverythingLubbock.com has a personal story to share from the Spanish Flu. The great grandfather of James Clark was Victor Clark (1887-1965).

In 1918, his mortal enemy was the flu – not the war. Having survived, his orders were to make himself useful. Over the course of time, he found a way to do that.

Below is an article written by Victor Clark. The introduction is written by his granddaughter, Alice Clark.

INTRODUCTION

Victor Clark was a high school kid when the United States entered World War I. He was still in basic training at Camp Grant, Illinois when the war ended. Private Clark never stormed a beach, never fought in a European campaign. He never received a medal or commendation, but he was a part of one of the most deadly events of World War I.

While there were about 15 million total deaths including 9.2 million combat deaths in World War I, deaths due to the Spanish Flu Epidemic have been estimated from 20 to 100 million people worldwide. At Camp Grant alone, there were 10,713 cases of influenza and 2,355 cases of flu related pneumonia in September and October of 1918, with 1,060 flu related deaths.

Vic was first involved as a patient at Camp Grant, and later was assigned to help young victims of the flu in a children’s ward in an emergency hospital in Rockford, Illinois.

This is the story of Vic Clark and the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic.

As printed in The Carrollton Patriot, November 21, 1918

Aren’t Soldiers Handy, Tho?

Victor Teaches Babies to Eat from Spoon

Camp Grant, Ill., Nov 10 – Editor The Patriot — I have received a copy of your paper every week since arriving in camp, and as I have not noticed any account of the experience of a man in the army during the “flu” epidemic, will try to tell you in few words our experience here.

The epidemic became serious about the third week in September. Within a week the base hospital was full and they were putting beds in various adjoining buildings. As they were short of nurses, the women of Rockford came out to help. In all, there were about 1200 deaths from influenza and pneumonia.

I went to the hospital with the “flu” the 23rd of September, while the number of cases was greatest. The only place they could find to put my cot was out in the corridor, so I saw most everything that occurred. The people of Rockford certainly helped out to the limits of their resources by bringing relatives of the sick boys out to camp in cars and in feeding and caring for them in town.

The disease was checked in camp in about four weeks, but about that time the city of Rockford was placed under quarantine, and I was one of a number of men ordered to report at the emergency hospital in town. I was sent to Emergency Hospital No. 1 and placed in a children’s ward, with orders to make myself useful. At first about all I could do was to sweep the floor and get water when anyone wanted a drink, but before I had been there a week I learned how to get a three-months-old infant to eat from a spoon and could make a bed as neatly and as fast as any woman in the ward.

The boys who go to a training camp never know one week what they will do the next, and even if they had no trade before, they are soon able to do everything from building a house to taking care of babies. We had 32 in our ward, ranging from 3 months to four years old, and my duty from 5 o’clock until 7 was walking the floor with one in my arms until it fell asleep and then repeating the operations with another one. However, the “flu” has been defeated entirely here, both in town and camp, and we have settled down to drill again.

VICTOR CLARK 7th Co., Inf. Replacement Camp

CLICK HERE to read more about Victor Clark on the Clark Family History website

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