Childhood Ailments

A Jan. 16, 1957 file photo shows Greg Cox, left, 7, in Altamont, Ill., as he looks at his friend Jon Douglas, 6, through the doorway while he recovers from mumps.

First of all, my DSL internet connection is dying fast. Next Friday, I get on cable, along with screaming 15 MB speed. but in the meantime, since working on the web under present conditions is pure torture, today’s column will be it for Boomer memories this week. Things should be back to normal by next Monday.

One of the reasons that we Boomers are so tough and resilient despite the various curve balls that life throws at us is because we had to endure multiple rounds of epidemic ailments when we were kids. These diseases were expected, even welcomed, as rites of passage that provided evidence that we were, indeed, growing up.

The goods news about mumps, chicken pox, and rubella measles was that once we went through the agony, that was it. We were provided with lifetime protection against future infections by our wondrous immune systems. So we knew, as we sat there in agony from itching, fever, and overall pain that once it was over, it was OVER!

But that didn’t provide any short-term relief. No, the only solace we received was that at least we were getting out of school. The very unlucky among us got infected in the summer. There was absolutely no good news about that.

Toddler with Chicken Pox

I remember having chicken pox. The evidence of the latter is found in occasional scars located on my 49-year-old physique. Why are they there? Because I didn’t listen to my mom, of course. She told me not to scratch, but I just couldn’t help it.

Obviously, most of us couldn’t help it. The majority of Baby Boomers have chicken pox scars.

There is really nothing unattractive about them. I remember having some heart-rending crushes on a young lady or two who had the telltale marks of a chicken pox infection of the 1960’s.

The infection lasted about a week, as I recall. Mom was working as a schoolteacher, and dad had his own job, of course, so I spent the week over at Terry Michael Browning’s house.

Such were the easygoing arrangements our parents had with each other. If one mother was unable to stay home with a sick child, she would trade out with other moms who would have sick kids of their own someday that needed watching.

Dennis the Menace advertising Rubella vaccine in 1970

Mumps were another agony that I recall having. My salivary glands swelled to the size of baseballs, or so it seemed. Any sort of movement was sheer agony, and the only relief that was available was orange-flavored Bayer Children’s Aspirin, which, as we all know today, will instantly kill any child who takes it. At least I was led to believe such when my own kids were small in the 80’s. Interesting, though, that we were given the little white pills by the millions in the 50’s and 60’s and survived.

The relief that aspirin provided was negligible, and my only alternative was to suffer. The good news was that the suffering didn’t last as that with chicken pox. It was a couple of days, as I recall.

Then there were the three-day measles. Also known as German measles and rubella, as much as a fourth of my second-grade class was out at once with the ailment.

As far as I know, I never contracted it.

Rubella was bad news for pregnant mothers who had never had the disease as kids. Their babies were born with defects, or were miscarried. Thus, this disease was aggressively fought by the medical research community in the 60’s. The first rubella vaccine was made available in 1969, and I can recall many posters at school announcing the need for us to get vaccinated. Maybe that’s why I never got the three-day-measles.

Vaccines against chicken pox and the mumps were developed later, with the result that our own kids and grandkids may have never experienced any of the big three rites of passage that we Boomer kids faced.

Obviously, not EVERY memory we had as kids was one we that want to relive.

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