Isaac Evalyn Barber was almost 10 years old when he contracted the flu in Coffeyville, Kansas where he was living with his mother and other family members. He was the child of Nova and Margaret, who divorced when he was 3. He was born in Labette, Kansas on November 24, 1908. Below is his story as he told it in his self-published autobiography Frayed Boostraps.
“When the injured soldiers started returning home in 1819, they brought with them the dreadful influenza. Many were dying around us and in November of 1918 I cam down with it. Being in a rundown condition from lack of food, probably led to my being in bed on my tenth birthday and the doctor came to the house and gave me a horrible tasting, green liquid medicine.
Schools were closed and everyone was quarantined, but it spread rapidly and I could see the dead being taken from their homes which made me wonder if I would fall victim.
Near my birthday I recovered enough to leave my bed only to have a relapse. This time it was even more severe. My weak, fever-ridden body ached and burned beyond belief. Luckily mother didn’t contact the flu, and she was a wonderful nurse, doing all she could for my well being. When I recovered from the fever. I was too weak to walk, so crawled around the house. IT went on for days and days, and I began to wonder if I would ever be strong enough to walk again. Then, like a miracle, one morning when I rose, I could stand erect and walk. I believe up to that point, that was the happiest day in my life, and I’d soon return to school—the thing I enjoyed most in life.”
Many who contracted the flu tried to resume normal life too soon and had a severe relapse, like Evalyn. Unlike Evalyn, many of them did not pull through after relapsing.
Evalyn is the great-uncle of Lucinda Smith, who shared the story and the photo with me. I have typed his story, including spelling and punctuation, exactly as it is written in his biography.