Way Back When: The Spanish Flu Invades Santa Barbara
Image: Healdsburg Enterprise, November 9, 1918
By Betsy J. Green
Everything changed here on October 14, 1918 with the large headline, “‘Flu’ Invades Santa Barbara; Schools, Movies, Other Public Gathering Places May Close.” The subhead continued, “Fifty Cases, Five Serious Ones, Already Reported in City.” Meetings were cancelled or postponed, and the schools and churches closed. “No public services will be held at the Old Mission Sunday for the first time in its 132 years of existence . . . For the first time in its history, parishioners will not assemble to hear Mass.”
Some people just stayed home. Many of those who went out wore masks or scarves. Doctors, nurses, other health workers, and anyone with a cold or flu were required to wear masks. Barbers, dentists, and pharmacists were advised to wear masks. The local Red Cross jumped into action and made 1400 masks. Some people made their own masks.
Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1919 -- is now available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. This is the sixth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at betsyjgreen.com