Emergency Red Cross Hospital in Saturday Club House: 1918 Influenza epidemic

As related in last week’s column, the Saturday Club immediately offered the facilities of its clubhouse for an emergency Red Cross Hospital when influenza reached epidemic proportions in Wayne and its environs in October, 1918. As soon as the main assembly room of the clubhouse had been filled to capacity, a “tent” was added.

Actually, the “tent” was a frame building, quickly put together. On Monday afternoon, October 14, orders were given for “a weather-proof wooden structure 40 x 18 feet, with sash windows, steam heat, electric light and telephone service.” Four days later, on Friday, October 18, this building was completed and in operation. It stood on ground to the rear of the Central Baptist Church parsonage, and adjacent to the clubhouse. Credit for the accomplishment of this seemingly impossible task went to J.D. Lengel and his workers, who labored both day and night.

For the most part, this new section of the hospital was devoted to children ill with influenza, while the main building was given over to adults. All questions in regard to admission to the hospital for patients were referred to the social service workers at the Neighborhood League, once their doctors had recommended such admission. It was these workers who supervised transportation to the hospital as well as return home afterwards. There was frequently much follow-up work to be done, as well as the temporary use of hospital blankets, hot water bags and other comforts.

One of the outstanding features of the Red Cross emergency hospital was the diet kitchen, set up in the basement of the main building under the supervision of Mrs. Phillipus W. Miller, Mrs. E.W.S. Tingle and Mrs. Frederick Embick, all active workers in the Wayne Red Cross branch. Not only did all the food for the hospital patients come from this kitchen but, for a time, an average of 125 meals per day was sent to the homes of those who were too ill to cook for themselves or for others in their households.

Donations of money, as well as food supplies, were welcomed by those in charge of the diet kitchen. Volunteer motor messengers saw to the delivery to any who could not come for it themselves, regardless of whether the patient could afford to pay. The feeling which prompted this spontaneous movement is well expressed in “The Suburban” of October 18, 1918, which reads:

“At this time there is an outpouring of community spirit and good will that makes us proud to be residents of Wayne… It is not charity that is being offered… everything that is being given is proffered in the spirit of neighborly helpfulness. It is being done in the face of the greatest scourge that has ever attacked our home. And there is no man too rich and none too poor to accept aid so freely tendered with each making what recompense he can.”

(To be continued)