1918 Flu Poems
Aside from newspaper accounts and government records, little was written about the terrible flu pandemic of 1918. Historians today have wondered whether the memories were too painful to write about. One estimate says more than 5,100 North Dakotans died in the pandemic, which lingered into 1920.
In the fall of 1918, communities’ schools, churches and theaters closed. Fargo’s “flu ban” lasted three weeks. Bismarck had reopened after one month. Grand Forks had one of the longest flu bans in the state, lasting seven weeks.
Howard J. Monley, of Grand Forks, wrote a poem published in the Grand Forks Herald to celebrate, entitled The Lid’s Off:
“The ‘Flu Ban’ days are over, the sun shines bright once more, the soldiers are ‘in clover,’ the fighting days are o’er, the church, the school, the public hall now all have ‘open door,’ and lots of work for one and all is everywhere in store.
“Before we start to work my friend to God, thanksgiving give for all the blessings He did send to all of us that live. And ask Him for the blessings He in His wisdom deems the best, then work and wait on patiently and leave to Him the rest.
“The schools must now work overtime to make up all they lost. The stores must each reduce their line regardless of the cost. ‘Shop early’ is the slogan. Yes, as early as you can. For trade was lost, we must confess, while underneath the ban.”
On this date in 1918, The Spectrum student newspaper of the North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo published another pandemic poem. “The Flu,” adapted from Eugene Field:
“The gods let thru that fiendish flu upon me last week Sunday – No fiercer storm than racked my form e’er swept the Bay of Fundy; But now good-bye to drugs, say I – Good-bye to gnawing sorrow; I am up today, and, whoop, hooray! I’m going out tomorrow!
“What aches and pain in bones and brain I had, I need not mention; it seems to me such pangs must be Old Satan’s own invention; Albeit I was sure I’d die, the doctor reassured me – and, sure enough, with his vile stuff, he ultimately cured me.
“‘Twas hard, and yet I’ll soon forget those ills and cures distressing; one’s future lies ‘neath gorgeous skies when one is convalescing! So now, good-bye to drugs, say I – Good-bye, thou phantom sorrow! I am up today! And, whoop, hooray! I’m going out tomorrow!”
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, October 9. Page 1
Jamestown Weekly Alert. 1918, October 10. Page 4
The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, October 30. Page 4
The Bismarck Tribune. 1918, November 8. Page 1
Grand Forks Herald. 1918, November 23. Page 1
Grand Forks Herald. 1918, November 25. Page 10
The Spectrum. 1918, December 2. Page 2
Barry, J.M. (2004). The great influenza: The story of the deadliest pandemic in history. Penguin Books: New York, NY
McDonough, S.L. (1989). The golden ounce: A century of public health in North Dakota. University Printing Center: Grand Forks, ND