By Jane Jenkins
Spreading as fast as the COVID-19 pandemic these days are ads and YouTube videos touting cures and preventatives: if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds you don’t have the virus but if you do fall victim megadoses of Vitamin C, lemons, zinc lozenges, and anti-malaria drugs can cure you. Peddlers of quack cures like these see opportunity in the uncertainty of a world turned upside down. Things weren’t much different during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
When influenza swept into New Brunswick in the fall of 1918, people were already bone-weary from four years of war and it seemed almost incomprehensible that things could get any worse. Unfortunately, people were soon overwhelmed by fear of the invisible killer they called “the enemy in our midst”. Health Department officials responded swiftly and within days of the first reported cases, issued orders to close all theatres, schools, and churches and to prohibit large gatherings and meetings. Although shops and small businesses could remain open, customer flow was greatly reduced. The province had been shut down and it would stay that way for five long weeks.
Isolation, boredom, and overwhelming dread replaced the usual routines of life that chilly fall of 1918. And feeding on this widespread anxiety were newspaper advertisements and articles trumpeting remedies to prevent or cure influenza by keeping the right attitude, making home-made recipes, or buying ready-made items. In most cases, the path to cure and comfort led straight to the clothes and other goods for sale in shops and stores. Continue reading