Monday, October 7, 2013

It’s My Three Year Blogiversary! And - Calling all Polio Pioneers!

Celebrating my three year Blogiversary

Last Monday’s blog that developed from identifying an old photo to finding information on Ithaca's 1916 polio epidemic has kept me preoccupied with further research on this topic. The question: oral versus shots.

Courtesy of

I vividly remember the day I became a Polio Pioneer. I was attending Willow Creek School as a second grader.  We had been indoctrinated about the importance of the role we were about to undertake.  We knew that some children would receive the live vaccine; others a placebo. With much anticipation we marched into the central hall that separated the two schoolrooms.  In the hall was a long table filled with little white paper cups that held the liquid.  And that is where my memory ends. I do not remember getting an additional shot.  My husband, who grew up at the opposite end of Tompkins County, said the students in his school received the polio vaccine via shots.

I learned from a brief Internet and yes, encyclopedia, search that the oral vaccine wasn’t available until the early 1960s.  If that was true, how did we happen to have it available to our rural school in abt 1954?  Or, was the oral vaccine the placebo?

I contacted the Tompkins County Historian, who immediately replied she didn’t know the answer to my question, but was now herself very curious. She grew up in New Jersey at about the same time and also received the oral vaccine.  She suggested I contact the Tompkins County Health Department.

Before doing that I contacted the History Center in Ithaca.  They too responded immediately, but saying, sorry, all they had were a few photos of children getting the vaccine.

We are awaiting a call back from the Tompkins County Health Department from a nurse who might know if the polio records from the 1950s were kept and if so where they might be archived.

In the meantime I went to the library to take out Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky.  This book will not give me the specific answer I am looking for as far as immunizations in Tompkins County is concerned, but it will give me a lot of interesting information on polio in general. 

And offshoot of finding the photo of the Lamkin family is my husband just finished an article on the Lamkins and the polio epidemic for the Newfield Historical Society’s next newsletter.

You just never know what road genealogy research will take you. 


  1. Mary,

    Happy 3rd Blogiversary!

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Jana: Thanks so much!! I have been doing a lot of research on this topic and report progress soon.