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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn E. Cook

Saver's Treasure–1918 and Beyond, Part 2

In the summer of 1918, the Great War in Europe was finally grinding to a dismal end. But unknown to people around the world, a new and different battle was just beginning. It was dubbed the Spanish Flu and Army camps were some of the first places this disease became rampant. New recruits died in droves, never arriving at the actual war front. Army doctors conducted autopsies and were baffled. They’d not seen anything like it before.

By late August, the virus had spread to the large, east coast cities. Local governments closed schools, churches, and many businesses. People started wearing homemade masks. Tales were told about all kinds of strange and possibly “miraculous” preventatives – wearing red clothing, using a laxative every day, inhaling fumes from factories. No matter. This virulent form of influenza made a relentless march across the country, as well as throughout the world. It reached the Washington, D. C. area by early October.

In my previous blog post, The Story Behind the Story, Part One, details of Edwin's life were given. For this post, I’ll let Grandmother’s saved items do the talking.

Death of Mr. Stoddard

The death of Edwin Freeman Stoddard occurred at his residence on Spencer street on Wednesday evening, October 23, 1918. The end came after an illness of ten days and resulted from pneumonia following an attack of influenza. Mr. Stoddard was born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, May 14, 1888, and his boyhood was spent in that town. He graduated from Pennsylvania State College in 1913 and shortly after was married to Elizabeth Archibald Summy, of Philadelphia. . . He was actively connected with the First Presbyterian Church of Hyattsville, of which he was Treasurer of the Board of Trustees and a Deacon. . . Mr. Stoddard was a man of sterling Christian character and deeply interested both in his work and in the promotion of every good cause in this town. He was widely known and highly esteemed by his many friends and co-workers and will be sadly missed. The sympathy of all goes out to his wife and family. . .

At age 30, Edwin was one of the estimated 675,000 victims of the flu pandemic in this country that raged from 1918-1919. Elizabeth was left with the responsibility for David, age three, my mother Sara, 14 months, and Elizabeth's elderly mother Sarah. Photo taken Nov. or Dec., 1918.

Elizabeth became the breadwinner for her little family, first working as a clerk for the Agriculture Department, Maryland State College, and later gaining a promotion to bookkeeper in that department. Meanwhile, her mother Sarah took care of the children and the house. By the early 1920's, Elizabeth had saved enough to buy a house several doors away from the one she and Edwin had rented. Here she is with daughter Sara in the backyard, late 1920's.

Elizabeth on the front porch of her much-loved house, taken in the late 1940’s, just before she sold it and moved to an apartment. That was a gloomy day for her.

In 1950, she came to live with my parents, who had just bought their first house in Wheaton, Maryland. My older brother was one year old. I and my sister weren’t yet on the scene.

From my first days until I was eighteen, Grandmother Stoddard was my extra mother and in many ways, I was closer to her than my actual mom. Grandmother wasn't in charge of the house and thus, had time to devote to a quiet child who liked discussing “grownup” things. She had me memorize a ton of Bible verses and we sang hymns together. She taught me how to play Checkers and Dominoes and read to me from the Readers' Digest. She explained bygone times and showed me her old photograph album, identifying the people and places in it. I credit her with giving me a lifelong interest in history. I’m quite sure, if Edwin had not been taken by influenza, my childhood would have been very different. He and Grandmother would have lived on together, well into their elderly years, and I would have missed her strong influence.

Here we are at a family picnic. That’s my mother Sara pouring lemonade and Grandmother Cook beside her. Sadly, I never knew that grandmother well. Next comes me. I was three and of course, I sat beside Grandmother Stoddard. (Whenever she went out, she always wore at hat!)

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