Wel­come to the fam­ily

Cape Breton Post - - HEALTHFOCUS -

Peo­ple in North Syd­ney opened their doors to U.S. ser­vice­men dur­ing Span­ish flu epi­demic.

he peo­ple of North Syd­ney had opened their doors to a num­ber of the sta­tion per­son­nel to al­le­vi­ate their dis­com­fort at liv­ing in tents, and be­ing treated for the in­fluenza (Span­ish flu) in makeshift shacks, un­til the epi­demic had passed.”

This quote comes from a small com­mem­o­ra­tive book­let called North Syd­ney Flight, which was pro­duced by some of the men at Naval Air Sta­tion North Syd­ney, and re­leased on Dec. 1, 1918.

Sev­eral lo­cal busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments had agreed to spon­sor this project and took out ads in the pub­li­ca­tion. Among th­ese were: Bank of Nova Sco­tia; Nader Broth­ers Bil­liard Par­lours; Thomp­son and Suther­land Hard­ware; Far­quhar Trad­ing Com­pany; Frank A. Bill Hard­ware and Sport­ing Goods; and Cassidy’s Pho­to­graphic Stu­dio.

It seems that the Span­ish flu hit the Amer­i­can ser­vice­men par­tic­u­larly hard, prob­a­bly due to the prim­i­tive liv­ing con­di­tions they ex­pe­ri­enced at In­dian Beach. Al­though the 40 army tents were raised above ground level on wooden plat­forms, the sur­round­ing land flooded af­ter each heavy rain, and it seems that there was a lot of rain that sum­mer and fall. The un­heated tents were usu­ally cold and damp. One of the larger tents served as a sick bay, and ac­cord­ing to this book­let, up­wards of 40 sailors were off sick at any one time.

The Amer­i­cans had their own doc­tor, Lt. Cald­well, but he fell ill shortly af­ter the out­break started. A re­lief doc­tor was sent down from Hal­i­fax, but he also came down with the flu. Those sailors who de­vel­oped pneu­mo­nia were usu­ally taken to Hamil­ton Memo­rial Hospi­tal, lo­cated on the top of Goat Hill, close to the present day North Star Inn. This hospi­tal was run by the Sis­ters of Char­ity, who also op­er­ated the Catholic schools in the town.

The air sta­tion at In­dian Beach was only tem­po­rary. Mod­ern heated build­ings, in­clud­ing two bar­racks and a mess hall, were un­der construction at Kelly’s Beach (Munro Park), and were sup­posed to be ready by the first week in Novem­ber. How­ever, construction was not on sched­ule, and when the weather turned cold, many res­i­dents of the town of­fered to take the Amer­i­can ser­vice­men, sick or not, into their homes.

By early Novem­ber, 1918, about 200 Amer­i­can sailors were sta­tioned in North Syd­ney. At that time Thanks­giv­ing Day was cel­e­brated in Canada on Nov. 6, and some lo­cal res­i­dents and church groups took it upon them­selves to treat the ser­vice­men to an old-fash­ioned, home­style turkey din­ner, with all the trim­mings. The Thanks­giv­ing meal was put on in a lo­cal hall and was much ap­pre­ci­ated by the young Amer­i­cans.

The ed­i­tor of North Syd­ney Flight, a cer­tain Lt. Smith, later had this to say about the way the Amer­i­can ser­vice­men were re­ceived by the town:

“It is cer­tain that ev­ery man in this com­mand will carry away with him pleas­ing mem­o­ries of his stay in this pic­turesque coun­try. It is dif­fi­cult to ex­press into words our ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the kind re­cep­tion and hos­pitable treat­ment we have re­ceived in the homes of the peo­ple of North Syd­ney. Friend­ships have been made that will last through the peace­ful years that will now fol­low.”

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