My grandmother, Dora B. Hirsh was born in Seguin, Texas, to Jewish parents of the Reform faith in 1899. Her father, Louis Hirsh was a cotton buyer, who unfortunately lost heavily in the futures market in 1914. He became depressed and worry ruined his health.
A few years later, my grandmother and her mother, Bertha Friedlander, moved to Abilene where Bertha opened a family rooming and boarding house. In early 1918, the family moved to Waco, Texas. It was there that Bertha became ill with the flu and passed away in October, 1918.
Dora had married and moved to Paris, Texas. She was called home to take care of her mother although she was pregnant with my mother. When Bertha died the mortuaries were so full that Dora had to take care of the body and dress her by herself. They had a household worker/s but she/they wouldn’t touch the body because they were afraid. Then the mortuary took the body for burial. She was buried in the first Jewish cemetery in Houston, Texas, Beth Israel.
Bertha’s other daughter, Augusta Louise, went to live with Dora. Augusta was born in 1910, eleven years younger than my grandmother.
My grandmother was somewhat disgusted with her father for not getting himself together after his losses, forcing Bertha to work, which she had never done before. She always thought that is what killed her mother. It was a horrible pandemic.
It is a wonder my grandmother didn’t get the flu taking care of her mother and being pregnant with my mother-I wouldn’t be here!
Additional note from Becky: The reason my grandmother was concerned about her working was the fact that she only knew how to keep house and opened the boarding house. There she came in contact with a lot of people, including some military, “one lieutenant and one a sergeant”. Some thought that the flu was spread by some of our boys returning from overseas. So it was this exposure that may have given her the flu.
Story and photos credit: Becky Stewart