Girl with polio 1948 at a garden party (possibly)

Sketch of vicarage garden party, girl at window being handed two icecreams

Girl with polio 1948 at a garden party (possibly)

Flashback to 1948. A country vicarage garden party in full swing. A girl with polio (potentially) isolated in her bedroom being handed ice creams through a window.

It was like this. New Zealand was in the throes of yet another poliomyelitis epidemic, schools closed, high alert. According to one authority, “An attack of polio may be as inconsequential as measles or more agonising than death.” My own case, if it was polio (no test, you see) was inconsequential, but I had to be isolated from this gathering of the parish in our garden. I remember my bed being pushed to the window so that I could see all the hi-jinks and people passing me ice creams through the open sash window.

That’s pretty much the sum total of my memory of being a girl with polio at a garden party (possibly). I bounced back from whatever that illness was, and nobody else in the family was infected, to my knowledge. Another lucky escape in my very long life. I’ve got a poem about that…

Metal Lion

You are so difficult to kill.
Just think of all the times
you could have died
in planes in cars in ocean rips
from operations, slips and trips
from salmon bones or salmonella
or lakes or poo or mozarella
zombies or goblins or narcotics
or overuse of antibiotics.
You could have easily expired
yet on and on you live.

A history of poliomyelitis in New Zealand
Incidence rates of poliomyelitis in New Zealand
Generation recalls the New Zealand polio quarantine




13 thoughts on “Girl with polio 1948 at a garden party (possibly)

  1. Sadje says:

    And that’s a good thing.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Not quite sure what you mean, Sadie…

      1. Sadje says:

        That you survived and are with us.

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Oh yes, I see. And of course I agree 🙂

      3. Sadje says:


  2. Dan Antion says:

    Well, we’re glad you’ve continued on.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Same here! I don’t think I was very sick at the time 🤔

  3. cedar51 says:

    My now very elderly sister, contracted polio – she was one of the oldest – being in her 20s and nursing at the time – she didn’t end up in a wheelchair or with too many visible after effects, other than the nerve issues that at times cause her to “just fall”.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Those effects were quite disturbing enough, I should think.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I remember clearly the epidemics in the early 50’s. When they came out with that first vaccine my parents marched us all down to the high school for the sugar cubes.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Just think how long it was before that vaccine was developed and made available!

      1. Elizabeth says:

        I know. I wonder if it will be the same this time and if we will all remember the scientist as we remember Sabin and Salk.

  5. All those memories come flooding back of iron lungs and leg braces!

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