Before Wonder Drugs: 1925 School Immunization Misery

Barbara MacDonald Kersey before moving back to Canada from Scotland. circa 1923

Today’s post is from a new book I’m editing for Barbara Kersey called, “Was I Ever Lucky”. It’s a memoir of her life in Windsor thus far.

After you read this story, you will certainly agree that Barbara was one lucky little girl.

When I was five and newly arrived in Windsor, the Board of Health, or its equivalent, started a program to immunize children with a general vaccination. This was in 1925 and seemingly this program had never been done before.

The program took place in the schools. Students lined up – class by class, and a doctor pricked each child in the arm.

The same needle was used on every child.

There were about five of us at Prince Edward School who almost immediately became seriously ill. They wanted to hospitalize me (as the others were) but I screamed so much that I was allowed home to have a doctor come every morning to care for me.

At first, Dr. Trimble, a very nice young doctor near the school was called but as he was already ill himself with TB, he didn’t have the stomach or strength to deal with such a seriously ill child. Dr. Brockenshire, who had an office near our house at Parent and Erie Street, was called next and declared he was up for the task.

First, a big slash was made on the back of my upper left arm and they did what had to be done. Afterwards, every morning for months, Dr. Brockenshire would arrive with his black bag, take my temperature, and then kneel down beside me at the edge of the bed. He would take out his tweezers and begin pulling and pulling a great length of what looked like dressing for a wound from the large opening in the back of my arm and then repack the opening with new gauze.

The chairman of the Board of Education would come by the house frequently, promising to cover all medical costs. I missed school for a whole year so was older than my peers when I finally returned.

Soon after my ordeal, a law was passed and each vaccination required a new needle.

Dr. Brockenshire left family practice shortly after this incident to become an orthopedic surgeon. In later years people said he was brilliant but gruff.

He was never gruff with me.

About Elaine Weeks

How history was taught in my day: memorize lots of boring dates and facts, watch corny old black & white history films. There was one bright spot, however. Grade 9 history at Walkerville Collegiate with Miss Falls (Georgina) when she taught a section on local history and took us on a field trip to explore some of Windsor's built heritage. Due to a series of peculiar events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, Walkerville Publishing Inc., (partner is Chris Edwards) launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999 and we produced 61 issues - the last in 2016. In 2004, we began producing local history books; that year we released "Best of The Times Magazine". Our current titles include 5000 Ways You Know You're From Detroit, 500 Ways You Know You're From Windsor, Walkerville - Whisky Town Extraordinaire, and Windsor Then - A Pictorial Essay of Windsor's Glorious Past. I also wrote a novel, Time Trespasser, that blends time travel with local history. I am working on a sequel. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, glass is nearly full person.
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2 Responses to Before Wonder Drugs: 1925 School Immunization Misery

  1. Pingback: What’s Brewing (March 28) | OurWindsor

  2. Heidi says:

    Very lucky, indeed.

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