Disease has been with us throughout time, and St. Louis Park has not been immune. From the Spanish flu to smallpox to polio, all have touched the lives of Park residents. The following is a chronology of the kinds of hazards that our predecessors had to face – and survive.

Also see Glen Lake Sanitorium.

For information on the effects of creosote in the water, see Republic Creosoting


Minnesota’s first hospital was built in St. Paul by the Sisters of St. Joseph. During construction in 1854, a cholera epidemic forced the sisters to open an emergency hospital in a log cabin on Bench Street. The disease was thought to have arrived in St. Paul by steamship. There were about 20 doctors in the state. Settlers suffered from malarial fevers, consumption, cholera, dysentery, diptheria, and typhoid fever.


Minneapolis’ first private hospital, Cottage Hospital, was organized in 1870 and opened in March 1871. The hospital was sponsored by the Brothers of Gethseman, a benevolent institution. The hospital was located at in a rented house on Washington Ave. near 9th Ave. North [9th Ave. So. and 6th Street]. The first patients were an orphaned German newsboy, a Swede who had lost his leg on the railroad, and a Norwegian taken ill with pneumonia in a bawdy house who had to be considerably cleaned up. In 1884 the name of the hospital was changed to St. Barnabus.


A State Health Department was established, with Dr. Charles Nathaniel Hewitt, late of the Grand Army of the Republic, was named health officer. His edicts were to clean up the drinking water, keep health records, classify causes of death, investigate infant mortality, isolate the sick, disinfect sickrooms, vaccinate for smallpox, and Wash Your Hands. He also believed in studying anatomy from actual cadavers, and kept one in his barn, pickled in brine.


Cholera was eradicated from the State in 1873.


Other hospitals began to appear in Minneapolis, including what would become University Hospital.


Dr. Robert Koch of Germany isolated the tubercle bacillus, and produced the first tuberculin in 1890.


See the chapter on the Pest House for information on the Minneapolis smallpox hospital sited in St. Louis Park.


Minneapolis City Hospital, the City’s charitable hospital, was organized by order of the Minneapolis city council.  It opened in a rented house at 724 11th Avenue South. In 1893 the hospital was moved to Brackett’s farm, between 5th and 6th, Park and Portland, which former Mayor George Brackett sold to the City before joining the Alaska gold rush. The same year, state law required the collection of birth and death records for the first time.


The U of M medical school was established. Dr. Perry H. Millard was the first dean, as well as professor of anatomy and physiology.


Tents were erected on the lawn of the Minneapolis City Hospital for 20 victims of a typhoid fever epidemic. Regular outbreaks of typhoid, caused by contamination of the Minneapolis water supply, were common. In St. Paul, more precautions were made to ensure that the water was safe for drinking.


A typhoid epidemic started among soldiers at Camp Ramsey.


A smallpox epidemic lasted until 1904, with 25,000 cases and 195 deaths. Infection came from exposure to railroad porters, switchboard operators, teamsters; some thought it came from soldiers back from the Spanish American War, or Cuban refugees, calling it the Cuban Itch, the Manila Itch, etc.

There was also a whooping cough epidemic that year, which took the life of former Governor John Pillsbury.


From as least 1901 on, the Village Council appointed both a Village Doctor and a board of health officers. In October 1901, the health officers used their powers to condemn cattle belonging to S.A. Engell, S. Johnson, and John Johnson.


The 1902 Annual Report of the City Hospital of the City of Minneapolis praises the Police, who run the ambulance service, and the fact that the wagons used are heavy and strong; “Of course, a covered wagon would be an improvement.”


90 percent of all doctors had no college education. So-called medical schools were condemned by the press and the government as “substandard.”

The leading causes of death in the U.S. were pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis, diarrhea, heart disease, and stroke.


Vaccinations were becoming available, including one for smallpox, but people didn’t like needles (it hurt their arms) and felt that quarantine was enough to keep them safe. To counter this, public health officials stopped placing homes under quarantine for certain diseases and instead posted signs warning visitors to be vaccinated.


Minneapolis, with its still-dirty water, had yet another typhoid epidemic.


The Gillette state hospital for crippled and deformed children was established after a “slender, crippled girl named Jessie Haskins stood before the legislature” and told lawmakers of the need. They appropriated $5,000 in 1897 for the hospital.


The West Wing of the Hopewell Hospital was completed, adding 200 beds for “chronic” and Tuberculosis patients.


The Lymanhurst Hospital opened at 18th and Chicago, bringing the number of the City’s beds to 900. In 1942 it became the Sister Kenny Institute and treated only polio patients.

The State Legislature passed the County Sanatorium Law, which provided State funds for the construction and maintenance of County sanitoria. The first Hennepin County Sanatorium Commission was appointed in December.


Scarlet Fever and diphtheria epidemics hit the area.


Village Doctor John Watson was reimbursed the cost of formaldehyde torches to fumigate homes.


On January 4, 1916, the first Tuberculosis patient was admitted to the East Cottage of Glen Lake Sanitorium.

Also in 1916, the Department of Charities and Corrections of Minneapolis billed the St. Louis Park Village Council for the hospital bill of Park resident Peter Scorgo, who was being treated for polio in the City Hospital. The cost was $10 per week.

The very first issue of the Echo announced a public health program to be given at the Radisson Hotel in Minneapolis on October 11, sponsored by the Minnesota Public Health Association.  Topics included “Health Needs in Country Districts,” “Making the Home Healthful,” “Visiting Nurse Work,” “Health Supervision in Schools,” and “Infantile Paralysis.”

In December 1916 Hennepin County repaid the Village Council $181.70 as the County’s share of expenses of covering contagious diseases occurring in the Village.


An eight-story Contagion building was added to Minneapolis General for patients with diphtheria, typhoid, scarlet fever, and pneumonia. It became known as the Annex in 1945.


A particularly virulent type of smallpox was brought in from Norway on a steamship. Vaccines were still not popular, but students at the U of M were declared wards of the State and required to have them.


A scourge on the scale of the Black Death plague of 1350 that ravaged Europe struck virtually the entire world in 1918. The deadly virus, known as the Spanish flu, infected one-third of the world’s population, killing anywhere from 20 to 100 million people worldwide.  People say that St. Louis Park didn’t lose a single citizen to the disease, due to the antiseptic properties of creosote.

Another Smallpox epidemic erupted in 1918, but by 1920, the struggle was on full force to convince (or force) the populace to be vaccinated.


Minneapolis City Hospital was renamed Minneapolis General Hospital.

Village Physician A.E. Tanner received additional compensation from the Village Council for dealing with contagious cases. Dr. Tanner was also called upon to check out complaints about pig sties in the Village limits.



The Masonic Observer, the newsletter of the Minneapolis Masonic community, came out against smallpox vaccinations, claiming that they actually caused smallpox.  The first of such deaths reportedly happened in November 1920, according to reports in the newsletter in February 1921.  The Masons were also very much into alternative medicine, with chiropractors claiming they could cure anything, up to and sometimes including cancer.



Insulin was discovered.


A smallpox epidemic started up north in lumber camps.


On July 26, 1926, the Village Council passed Ordinance A-3 that regulated the location, construction and operation of soil absorption systems for the disposal of human excreta – privies, septic tanks and cesspools.

Also on July 26, 1926, the Village Council passed Ordinance A-4 that provided for public health nuisances, including of decayed or unwholesome food, diseased animals, stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed, milk not tested for TB, carcasses of animals not buried within 24 hours, manure or rubbish that attract flies, mosquitos or vermin, privy vaults and garbage cans not fly-tight, water pollution by sewage, creamery, r industrial wastes, noxious weeds and other rank growths of vegitation, dense smoke, noxious fumes, gas and soot or cinders, persons with contagious diseases, use of common drinking cup or roller towel, distribution of drugs to children.

  • Ordinance A-16 included the prohibition of public expectorating.
  • Ordinance A-18 created a local board of health, headed by a physician, in charge of quarantines and infectious diseases, at the rate of $60 per year.
  • Ordinance A-22 regulated the disposal of garbage.
  • Ordinance A-27 regulated the processing of milk.


A scarlet fever epidemic barely touched St. Louis Park, and some attributed the resistance to the creosote in the water. Statewide, 3,000 cases were reported.


The first antibiotic was discovered by a man named Fleming. It was not regularly used until it was used to treat wounds in World War II.


There were a large number of cases of scarlet fever in Minnesota in the spring, and residents were advised to take each case seriously. A bulletin from the Educational Committee of the Minnesota State Medical Association said that scarlet fever was reaching the peak of its regular six year cycle in Minnesota. It warned that even a case that did not seem serious could cause kidney disease, mastoid infection, and pneumonia. They advised that a child diagnosed with scarlet fever be kept quiet in bed for at least two weeks. The Hennepin County Review quoted the bulletin:

Immunization against scarlet fever has demonstrated its value in some instances, but it has not yet reached the stage where the majority of physicians recommend it for the routine use. The best protection is still early recognition of the disease and adequate quarantine.


Polio (poliomyelitis), a disease caused by a virus, started to become common, particularly in northern areas. Better sanitation rendered people less immune to the virus, with the result that it became more powerful than it had ever been. Epidemics first hit Scandinavia in 1887, and in 1894, the first cases were seen in the U.S. Victims, usually young children, experienced atrophy of the legs and chest, which eventually caused difficulty breathing. Doctors splinted the affected extremities with plaster and wood, often causing permanent damage, and placed the patient in an iron lung respirator to assist breathing.

As many as 6,000 President’s Birthday Balls were held around the country to benefit the Warm Springs Foundation, whose aim it was to find a cure for polio. A ball was held in St. Louis Park on January 30, 1934.

During the Depression, teachers did health checks every morning. They would look down the students’ throats to see if they were red, and look between their fingers for scabies. Students in the Park didn’t seem to get head lice, although it was all around.


In December 1934 the Sister Kenny Institute was opened in Minneapolis, using the Sister’s controversial treatment for polio. Instead of using splints and immobility, she used moist heat and manipulation to keep the muscles active and alive until the patient regained control of the paralyzed limb. Minneapolis General was the only hospital that was willing to give Sister Kenney the opportunity to demonstrate her method.

In 1942 the American scientist Pearl Kendrick combined the whole-cell pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine with diphtheria and tetanus toxoids to generate the first DTP combination vaccine. Vaccinations were given to St. Louis Park children at school.


St. Louis Park Village Health Officer Dr. Harry Darby declared that, although there were 395 cases of diphtheria in the state that year, St. Louis Park had not had a case for the last 10 years, thanks to an aggressive program of immunizing school children.


Polio became an epidemic, with 2,000 patients hospitalized around the City of Minneapolis. The Sister Kenney Institute had treated 100 patients during the epidemic. The March of Dimes raised funds for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Schools started two weeks late because of the epidemic. Nurses were recruited from around the country.

There were 18 cases of polio in St. Louis Park in 1946, and four deaths. Harry Wittgraf, a 15-year-old who lived on Cedar Lake Road, was the first victim in the Park, dead after only three days. Another victim was student John Hull.

The Dispatch reported in August of 1946 that the St. Louis Park Village Council passed a resolution banning all meetings, fairs, or other entertainments on public property until the Village health officer gave the all clear. Keeping children at home was a first priority, and pools, camps, vacation Bible Schools, and matinees at the Park Theater were all canceled.

The Fireman’s Carnival was postponed until October, school was delayed for two weeks, the Browndale Garden Club flower show was cancelled, and the Hennepin County Fair was postponed a month. The Hopkins Raspberry Festival went on in July as planned, but the organizers promised that the grounds would be liberally sprayed with DDT to avoid the risk of polio. 3,000 people took the risk.


Dr. Darby presented his report to the Village Council for the year 1949.  During that year he had administered:

  • 796 Smallpox vaccinations
  • 419 Schick tests (designed to evaluate susceptibility to diphtheria)
  • 737 Diptheria and tetanus shot

Dr. Darby also reported:

  • 12 Cases of Polio
  • 39 Cases of Scarlet Feverbut Dr. Darby said that the cases were so slight that they should be considered as “scarletine.”  That word does not come up in Wikipedia, but scarletina is defined as the same as scarlet fever in older literature.
  • 2 Cases of Diptheria (although it was also reported that four children in one St. Louis Park family contracted diptheria. It was the first case reported in town in 7 years.)

Dr. Darby also reported that there had not been a case of smallpox in 25 years.
Kit and John Billman headed up the St. Louis Park fund drive for the Sister Elizabeth Kenney Foundation to fight polio.

The St. Paul Hospital and Casualty Co. offered polio insurance for $6/year, with $5,000 of coverage.  It also covered smallpox, scarlet fever, diphtheria, spinal meningitis, encephalitis, and two other diseases.  No medical exam was required.

Hazelden introduced a holistic, inter-disciplinary approach to chemical dependency in 1949.


There were approximately 600,000 cases of polio in the U.S. in 1950. In the Minneapolis area, an average of 30,000 cases of polio per year were reported from 1950 to 1955.


On January 6, 1951, local dentists urged the Village to add fluoride to the water. It would take another 9 years.


The 1951 St. Louis Park Health Report cited the following cases:

27 Scarlet Fever
6 Polio
1 Meningitis
5 Dog bites
0 Diptheria

On April 10, 1951, ninth grade student Lane Douglas was stricken with polio.  On April 15 she was admitted to Sister Kenny Institute, where she spent two months in an iron lung.  On February 13, 1952 she was released to Swedish Hospital for rehabilitation.  She was able to return home in July 1952.   In February 1953 she was back in school in a wheelchair, cautioning her classmates “Don’t get wet – too cold – too tired!”  By January 1954 she was vice president of her Silver Tri chapter and active in her church youth group, although still confined to a wheel chair.  The March of Dimes provided the respirator, braces, and paid all of her bills at Sister Kenny and par of those from Swedish Hospital.

The St. Louis Park Echo received a national award for outstanding contribution to TB education during 1950 at the annual High School Press Project meeting at Glen Lake Sanitorium in November 1951.  Attending the event, which included a tour of the facilities, was LeRoy deBoom, the Echo editor who would be struck down by polio.


Polio grew to epidemic proportions in the U.S., with 58,000 cases in 1952.  20,000 of those cases resulted in permanent paralysis.  Each year the epidemic would begin in May and peak in the early fall. During 1952, 735 lives were lost in Minnesota to the disease.

In August 1952 Brookside resident LeRoy DeBoom was stricken at age 18.  Despite his almost total paralysis, he attended the U of M and worked as an accountant.

In October 1952, 14-year-old Sandra Ruth Savold, daughter of boxer Lee Savold, died of polio after a four day illness. It was St. Louis Park’s fifth polio death of the year.



35,200 cases of polio were reported in the U.S. in 1953.

An ominous front page article in the October 23, 1953 issue of the Echo:

Campaign, X-Rays Check Scourge of TB for Park High

Lie a phantom specter old TB lurks in the halls of Park, ever waiting to pounce on students whose resistance is low. Fortunately, though, tuberculosis stands little chance of gaining a foothold in Park high school.


Senior high students, faculty and personnel connected with school received their chest X-rays from the mobile unit Oct. 13, 14 and 15.


Once inside the whirring monster all one had to do, in the words of the technician, was, “Take a deep breath and count to one hundred.”


Mrs. Emy Monk, school nurse, perhaps expressed it best when she said, “It’s through such campaigns as these that the scourge of TB can be checked.  Students themselves helped the most by learning about tuberculosis in classrooms and cooperating 100 percent.”


Since the tests at Park have been completed, the mobile unit is touring Park grade schools to check the faculty and personnel there.

The Park Echo won national and state awards at the TB Press Project for the 1952-53 school year.  Echo co-editors Carol Bissell and Julie Smith accepted the awards at the annual dinner given on November 5, 1953 at the Glen Lake Sanitarium.


A measles vaccine was developed by John Enders.

The Hennepin County Public Health Nurse system provided one nurse for 16,000-30,000 people, according to the League of Women Voters.


Dr. Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine. The Salk vaccine used an inactivated or dead virus preparation and required an injection and up to three booster shots.   It was tested on over 650,000 children in 1954, and when the news that it was safe was announced on April 12, 1955, citizens celebrated and rang church bells.

In 1955 there were 29,000 cases of polio in the U.S.


There were 14,647 cases of polio reported in the U.S. in 1956.

Four-year-old Jana Martin, 1476 Kentucky Ave., was able to come home from Glen Lake after being there since she was eight months old.  She was a victim of “miliary tuberculosis,” which at the time were incurable.  Christmas seals funded the development of the drugs streptomycin and isoniazide.  Her story was told in the December 3, 1958 issue of the Echo.


5,600-5,900 cases of polio were reported in the U.S. in 1957.

The Echo reported that over half the students in school had not had the Polio vaccine, despite a concerted campaign and frequent letters from Polio victim LeRoy deBoom urging students to get it before it was too late.

The Echo also profiled Russell DePue, who contracted Polio in 1949 and was taught at home by Park teachers.  He slept in an iron lung that he received from the March of Dimes.  Despite his physical limitations, Russell was on the Honor Roll.

In the Fall of 1957, 900 out of 1,257 senior high students got the flu.



Polio outbreaks in the United States occurred in mostly low-income areas. Minnesota had 25 reported cases in 1958.



In January – March 1959, Park students were selected to participate in a project that gave the Mantoux tuberculosis test to 10 percent of the school children in rural Hennepin County and Minneapolis.

On January 22, Mrs. Alroy Newcombe and Mrs. Walter R. Johnson were pictured in the Dispatch with polio victim Russel DePue. The two women were to lead approximately 800 St. Louis Park women in the annual Mothers’ March against polio.

An article dated May 7, 1959, warned parents that they needed to be inoculated against tuberculosis as well as their children. The 90 percent of children who are inoculated are still carriers.

The St. Louis Park Jaycees worked with the medical community to conduct a survey, which indicated that 80 percent of the City’s “bread-winners, fathers, husbands and older sons (18 through 40 years of age) have not started or completed Salk vaccine inoculations…. Also on the danger list are a great many offices workers… women 20 through 35 years old.”

On April 21, 1959, Dr. Ellen Z. Fifer was appointed the City’s first public health officer. She replaced Dr. Harry Darby, who served as both health and sanitation director for 34 years. The Dispatch reported that she would head the first full-time health department in a Minneapolis suburb. Initially the position was only ¼ time. Dr. Fifer worked with school nurses and volunteers to provide health care to school children. This included eye tests, diphtheria-whooping cough-tetanus inoculations, testing for lead poisoning, etc.

A short time later, Harvey McPhee was designated as Sanitation Director. His position was full time and apparently was specifically designated for a man. His duties included inspecting eating establishments and other public places.

In response to the alarming polio survey polling 150 families by telephone, the Jaycees inaugurated a polio immunization campaign, urging people to see their family doctors for shots before the summer started. The response was disappointing, though, and more drastic action was needed. Thus a massive polio immunization clinic was organized by Health Officer Fifer, the Jaycees, and the St. Louis Park Polio Protection Committee. A key organizer was local activist Min Himmelman. It was estimated that approximately 4,000 people, from infants up to age 40, needed to get their Salk shots.

The polio inoculation clinic was held on June 24 and 25, 1959,  from 7 to 9pm at Central Jr. High. The City’s Civil Defense organization worked to inform citizens and provide security at the site. Shots were administered under the authority of Dr. Fifer with the assistance of registered nurses supplied through the aid of City public school nurse Emy Monk and Miss Bertha Hovde, Rural Hennepin County nurse. The vaccine was obtained at cost from the National Polio Foundation, and shots cost each patient 50 cents.



Despite a terrible rainstorm, on Wednesday, June 24, 1,471 polio vaccines were administered. People were lined up for two blocks, and some 200 had to be turned away when the vaccine supply ran out. The next night, 2,516 shots were given. It was called the first mass family clinic of its kind in the State. Surrounding suburbs followed Park’s lead by scheduling similar clinics, and Governor Orville Freeman cited Park’s and other municipalities’ efforts in an address to 500 Mayors at an Aquatennial Mayor’s Day assembly.

A follow-up polio vaccination clinic was held on July 30, 1959, from 2 to 8 pm, staffed by volunteer doctors. The supply of vaccine from the National Foundation had been exhausted, but with Min Himmelman’s persistence, a supply was obtained from a Minneapolis drug firm. The higher cost raised the price of each shot to 75 cents.

Minnesota had 242 cases of polio in 1959.



With the advent of the oral polio vaccine developed by Dr. Herald Cox, some 10,090 (1,000?)Park school children (including those in private schools and preschools) participated in field trials in May 9-13, 1960. About half were given a cherry-flavored liquid Cox vaccine and the rest a placebo of sugar water. The Cox vaccine used a live virus and could be administered in one dose. Mrs. Edwin “Sally” Rose chaired a volunteer group to assist in the administration of the vaccine. All of the information about the children and the code number of the bottle administered were given to the State Health Department and put on IBM cards.

School children who got sugar water instead of the Cox vaccine in May were to get the real vaccine in the fall. Come October, the State Health Department held up the vaccine because the Polio Advisory Council couldn’t decide whether to use the Cox or Sabin vaccines.  Cox vaccines were ultimately given to the placebo group in February 1961.  The Cox vaccine was not available to the public.

In August 1960 four-year-olds were given eye tests in a program sponsored by the Minnesota Optometric Association.

In December 1960 the Christmas Seal mobile X-ray unit was stationed at Miracle Mile. The Hennepin County Tuberculosis Association sponsored free chest X-rays to anyone age 15 and older. Costs were paid by annual contributions to the Christmas Seal campaign.
In 1960, Park became the first community in the area to vote for fluoridation in the drinking water, as recommended by the American Dental Association. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul had already taken the step.


After a delay by State officials, the second part of 1960’s polio clinic was held the week of February 20, 21, and 23. Children found out whether they had received the vaccine or sugar water, and the latter were afforded the actual Cox oral vaccine. There were 121 cases of polio reported in the U.S. in 1961.

The third and final year of Mantoux (TB) testing was carried out in Park schools. Assisting the school nurses and physicians were a group of over 100 volunteers organized by Mrs. Sally Rose. 9,000 children were affected.

Vision and hearing defects were discovered in 28 school children, prompting the School Volunteer Services organization to organize a second Pre-School Medical Survey of Vision and Hearing, sponsored by the Minnesota Medical Association. In the fall, parents were asked to bring their 4 year olds to one of five churches for screening. Tests were conducted by trained volunteers. About 1,000 children were involved.

City Sanitarian Harvey McPhee proposed an ordinance to regulate and license food handling establishments. Among other things, the ordinance banned bartenders from smoking on the job, and required that walls and ceilings in eating establishments be painted a light color. One restaurant owner commented that “If this thing passes, we’ll all go out of business.” After many delays, the Chamber of Commerce suggested and won 7 amendments, and the ordinance passed in March.


Dr. Albert Sabin developed an oral polio vaccine that used live virus, and tested it in Mexico and the Soviet Union beginning in 1957. During the summer of 1962, the US Public Health Service approved the Sabin vaccine, and it became the vaccine of choice. People were urged to take the Sabin vaccine, even if they had already had the Salk.

In October 1962 a 15-year-old 10th grader was found to have a far advanced case of tuberculosis. He had tested positive in 1961, but it was not followed up. 300 students who had had immediate contact with the boy were given the Mantoux test on November 11, and on January 20, the rest of the 2,200 students of Park High were tested. The 15-year-old was hospitalized at Glen Lake. About 25 students tested positive and were treated.

In the early 1960s, Dr. Fifer visited the Creosote Plant and National Lead and warned the city of the health dangers. She specifically saw stippling in the blood of those exposed to lead. Nothing was done.


The Hennepin County Health Dept. requested that St. Louis Park hold an immunization clinic, but Dr. Fifer and the City Manager determined that it was not needed.


A rubella outbreak in 1963/64 resulted in 46 deaf students in 1980/81.


At polio vaccine clinics, about 18,000 senior high students and 10,000 Westwood Junior High students drank the oral Sabin vaccine.


The City passed an ordinance requiring all nursing home and boarding home patients and residents to get a chest X-ray to control Tuberculosis.

Since 1960 Dr. Fifer had advocated for a Suburban Hennepin County Health Department. Some of the problems she identified in 1965 were inadequately designed and improperly constructed private wells and sewage disposal systems, air pollution, and garbage and refuse disposal  This effort was ultimately unsuccessful – the various municipalities preferred to keep public health decisions on a local level.

By 1965 there were fewer than 100 cases of polio in the U.S.



Dr. Fifer resigned as St Louis Park’s Public Health Officer. She went on to work for the State Health Planning Agency from 1966-1971, and then moved to the State Health Department until she retired. In 1966, Dr. Wilkowski was appointed Public Health Officer in her place.



Mark Hampel described this best:

In grade school we had personal hygiene class. Our teachers told us about washing our hands. Washing and combing our hair……. The class had clean hands, face, and hair. Most of the kids I mean. Then…… General hygiene included brushing our little teeth. Brush up and down. Brush side to side. The teacher would give us a little red pill. This little pill would show any plaque left on our teeth. If we did as we were told there would be light pink saliva. If we did not use the suggested brushing methods the color on our teeth would be bright red. So as we sat in our little seats waiting for the “plaque” pill to dissolve little faces…. Drooling blood…. Down the chin…. Down the neck. At this time our little mouths are still closed. Now we are suppose to open our mouth……. I guess we did not brush according to our previous instructions. Looked like most of us had tomatoes stuck to our incisors …. Now ….. Everyone started laughing. Dark red saliva flying across the room. Not to mention…. Pools of saliva blood on the floor. Blood on our washed hands…. Blood in the hair. Clothes looked as thou we were in a gang fight. I guess we COULD. Have been the first Michael Jackson THRILLER CAST.


The November 19, 1971, issue of Central Jr. High’s Just Us newspaper had a surprisingly frank article about The Annex, a free clinic that provided diagnosis and treatment of venereal diseases and pregnancy testing.  The clinic was started by Rev. Ronald Peterson of Holy Nativity Lutheran Church of Crystal and directors of District 281 School Board.  The same issue reported on an assembly featuring Brian Rudd, who spoke about his struggles with drug addiction.



Students at Central won the right the chew gum in school on February 10, 1972.  The rules were:

  1. students chewing gum must do so politely and discreetly
  2. teachers have the right to prohibit a student or class from chewing gum
  3. make sure that gum wrappers are in the wastepaper basket and gum is not in the drinking fountains or on school furniture.
  4. this is on a permanent trial basis
  5. candy cannot be eaten in the school building except in the lunchroom at lunch time.

Unfortunately, the article reported that “the results haven’t been very good.  It’s been going downhill.  Teachers have objections as to how the student chew gum and where they put it.  Gum was found on the apparatus equipment in the gym and on the walls.”


A 1972 article in the Echo told of the West Suburban Teen Clinic, located at 15320 Minnetonka Blvd. in an old house donated by Westdale Florists.  Also cited was a 1971 law that minors can be treated for drug abuse, venereal disease, or pregnancy without consent of their parents.


By 1973 there were fewer than 10 cases of polio in the U.S.


And then there was the Swine Flu Debacle of 1976.


Polio was eradicated in the United States, 24 years after the first vaccine had been developed.


The global eradication of smallpox was certified by a commission of eminent scientists on December 9, 1979, and subsequently endorsed by the World Health Assembly on May 8, 1980.  The first two sentences of the resolution read:

Having considered the development and results of the global program on smallpox eradication initiated by WHO in 1958 and intensified since 1967 … Declares solemnly that the world and its peoples have won freedom from smallpox, which was a most devastating disease sweeping in epidemic form through many countries since earliest time, leaving death, blindness and disfigurement in its wake and which only a decade ago was rampant in Africa, Asia and South America.

— World Health Organization, Resolution WHA33.3



In 1981 a suspiciously high incidence of breast cancer was perceived in women who worked, volunteered, or were students at the Eliot School building. Chemicals in the water, left over from years of industrial pollution, were suspect. The State Department of Health investigated, but concluded that there was nothing in the building or in the water that could explain the trend. In 1982, St. Louis Park School Superintendent Mike Hickey sent a memo to the concerned women that said that no more action on the part of the school district was warranted, stating that diseases tend to occur in clusters.



Rotary International launched a polio eradication effort in 1985.  In that year, more than 350,000 children in 125 countries were stricken every year.



The U.S. was declared free of polio in 1994.



The 2012-13 influenza season was particularly brutal, causing many deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations in Minnesota.  On January 8, 2013, St. Louis Park High School freshman Carly Evelyn Christenson, age 14, passed away at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis from complications from Influenza.



Due to efforts by Rotary International, the World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF, polio is on the brink of being only the second disease after smallpox to be eradicated worldwide.  Cases were down 99 percent from 1985, with only 359 cases reported in 2014.


The only countries reporting cases of polio in 2015 were Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The World Heath Organization is confident that polio will be eradicated worldwide by 2018.