Tales from the Morgue: Battling the Spanish flu

2013-08-09T09:45:00Z Tales from the Morgue: Battling the Spanish fluJohanna Eubank, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 09, 2013 9:45 am  • 

The flu epidemic of 1918 didn't spare Tucson. The Board of Health began to insist on the wearing of masks to help curb the spread of the disease. 

That wasn't enough, though. Some schools were closed and others were on a modified schedule so children wouldn't be exposed to as many people at once.

The city council backed up the Board of Health on the mask order by passing a city ordinance. From the Arizona Daily Star, Friday, Dec. 13, 1918:

 

CITY COUNCIL BY ORDINANCE REQUIRES MASK
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Became Effective Upon Its Adoption Yesterday Afternoon at 2 O'Clock, Police Will Not Make Arrests Until After Saturday
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The new city ordinance requiring the wearing of masks at stores, theaters and other places of business, became effective upon its adoption by the city council yesterday afternoon at 2 o'clock.

At the suggestion of the council, the public was given until Saturday morning at 8 o'clock to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the ordinance. After that time arrests will be made for violations.

Probably the council meant to give the public ample time in which to reconcile themselves to the wearing of the anti-influenza mask, for as a matter of fact the ordinance merely gives further force to the existing order of the city board of health.

The city ordinance simply requires what the health board's order required, but it gives the city recorder jurisdiction over cases arising from violations of the mask rule. However, the justice court will still have jurisdiction. The provisions of the city ordinance were embodied in an order by the board of health yesterday afternoon.

Schools Are Exempted.

Teachers and school children are exempted from the operation of the ordinance and the health board's order. This, it was explained by City Health Officer Clyne, was because of the new seating arrangement in the schools, whereby each child has three feet of breathing space. This is made possible by having the school children attend school every other day, each child attending school three days in the week.

A further reason for exempting school children, Dr. Clyne said, was that children appear not to be very susceptible to influenza.

"I have noticed," observed Councilman Bernard, "that the disease rarely attacks persons above or below the draft ages, eighteen to forty-five."

Upon the adoption of the ordinance, carrying an emergency clause that made it effective immediately, Mayor Parker said:

"I wish to instruct Chief of Police Bailey to secure a copy of the ordinance and enforce it to the letter."

Will Enforce Ordinance.

The chief responded that he would enforce the ordinance in its every provision and suggested that it would be well for the members of the council to provide themselves with masks.

The mayor suggested that the chief send a man to each of the city churches next Sunday to see that the ordinance was obeyed.

"It won't hurt a policeman to go to church once," he observed.

The chief said he would see the ministers of the city and get their cooperation in having the ordinance obeyed by their congregations. The ministers will not be required to talk through their masks when they address their congregations. It was the suggestion of the city health officer that the ordinance be not enforced as to them, when they were delivering their sermons.

"I think we should be practical about this," he said.

The same exemption will apply to those who sing in churches and at other affairs.

New Provision.

In addition to the provision requiring the wearing of masks in places of business, the ordinance requires physicians and householders to report cases of influenza, and deaths from influenza, to the city health officer. The penalty for violating the provisions of the ordinance is the same specified in the board of health's order.

The city council was serious. Not only were people arrested, their names were published for all to see. From the Star, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 1918:

SCORES OF ARRESTS FOLLOW 'FLU' MASK ORDINANCE FRACTURE; NIGHT RAID IS MADE UPON HOTEL LOBBIES
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Nolens Volens, Ordinance Is to Be Enforced, Says Chief Bailey; Judge Cowan Had Busy Time Fining Violators Yesterday, And Is Faced By Still Busier Session Today Hotel Raid Nets Many Victims; No Trifling, Is Fiat
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The "flu mask" city ordinance is being, and is going to be enforced, according to Chief of Police Frank T. Bailey. In witness thereof:—

Thirteen culprits appeared before City Recorder Cowan yesterday afternoon. Eight paid fines of $10 each. One was fined and announced his intention of fighting the city ordinance. Four, Judge Cowan found, were under the age limit and beyond his jurisdiction, so he turned them over to their parents or guardians with a warning.

Nearly fifty were arrested last night, twenty-seven of them by a special corps of officers who descended unexpectedly upon hotel lobbies. They are all instructed to appear before Recorder Cowan at 3 o'clock this afternoon.

Fifty more are under surveillance and "slated" for arrest today.

"We are going to enforce this ordinance or close up the town entirely," said Chief of Police Bailey yesterday afternoon.

City Recorder Cowan had a busy session in court yesterday. Most prominent among those who smilingly admitted an infraction of the law and paid his $10 fine was Pierre Rally, local jeweler. Others who enriched the city's coffers were J. Caleshan, G. W. Campbell, Louis P. Catu, Antonia Guiterrez, Alfredo M. Montano, S. Kogos and Jun Tun.

Augustine Navarette, Miguel Tapia, Jose Parrel and S. Simon were dismissed as under 16 years of age and not in the jurisdiction of Judge Cowan's court.

John Simon, a merchant of 132 W. Congress street, gave notice that he would appeal his sentence of a $10 fine to the superior court. He has five days in which to file an appeal.

Last night a corps of "specials" who proved no respecters of persons descended upon the lobbies of the leading hotels of the city with the result that they put the "j'accuse" on at least one deputy sheriff, one hotel proprietor, one prominent woman and a number of others known well and favorably in Tucson and throughout the state.

The "blue book" of last night's lobby arrests reads as follows, according to the blotter of the arresting officers, with names and place of arrest:

Clare Daggett, Oscar Egge, Mrs. J. Tardy, E. F. Chandler, Frank Bascom, Tucsonia Hotel; Mrs. Ople Browning, Western Union Telegraph; Hilario Pacho, 103 West Congress street; Hop Row, Charley Jack, Joss Stick cafe; Isaac Ayers, G. C. Everett, T. T. Smith, Heidel Hotel; George Netter, P. L. Dominguez, Santa Rita Hotel; F. M. Curtiss, Lee Fountain, C. C. Rockwell, Deputy Sheriff Thomas Hurts, Willard Hote; E. S. Brutsche, John Latz, Adam Cellbauer, Hotel Congress; L. H. Kreigmaub, Hotel Heidel; Clark C. Pratt, Tucsonia Hotel; T. J. Pritchard, Santa Rita Hotel; E. Barabe, Willard Hotel; E. J. Keough, Congress Hotel; Franklin Lamboa, 103 West Congress.

But the dark deed is not finished. Uneasy lies the head this morning which has violated Tucson's "flu" ordinance. It may be listed, spotted, slated, and all that is lacking is formal service of the police.

One imagines a police raid on gambling parlors, house of ill repute and drug houses. Hotel lobbies? Not really. People probably thought they were in the clear once they were off the street. The deputy sheriff should have known better.

The sweeps went on, but the stories were the same.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

Tales from the Morgue is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library - also known as News and Research Services - for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com.

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