Frontier Historical Society and Museum
Spanish influenza was one of the most dreaded diseases of the 20th century. A pandemic sweeping the world, it was feared for its aggressiveness and its ability to kill within a few hours or a few days. This flu predominately struck the young and those in their 20s and 30s. No one knew its cause. It would be years after its disappearance before scientists discovered its viral origins.
In early October 1918, Glenwood Springs doctors and members of the City Council met to discuss ways to evade or minimize a Spanish influenza epidemic. Local drugstores offered preventive potions. Residents believed in gargling, snuffing and drinking the hot springs waters. Even vacuum cleaners were advertised to sanitize homes against the flu.
However, by mid-October the first cases of Spanish influenza were reported in Glenwood Springs. An emergency hospital at the Iola Rooms at 826 Grand Ave. was established to treat the sufferers.
Obituary columns in the Avalanche Echo newspaper lengthened as the flu took hold. Victims Alma Zadra and Irene Wirth were mere toddlers upon their deaths. Curtis Jessup, Jack Bianco, Ed Korupkat, Gus Papps and Vicenzo Dipaolo were examples of those who were in their 20s or 30s when they succumbed.
Multiple family members were stricken. As the flu’s intensity heightened in Grand Junction, former Cardiff residents Harry and Oakella King as well as a young son was stricken. Harry King had been a cashier for the Colorado Supply Co. in Cardiff, and he and the entire King family were respected and beloved by the community. Therefore it was a shock to learn of King’s passing on Nov. 23, 1918. Oakella King died two days later. Their son survived.
Harry and Oakella King were buried with Masonic honors in Rosebud Cemetery on Nov. 27, 1918, just as the local flu epidemic was waning, but not before scores of families were forever changed by the Spanish influenza pandemic.
“Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday.
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