Childhood Illnesses of the 50’s that Really Sucked


Back in the 50’s, life was a lot simpler than it is now.  The only people who wore seat belts were test pilots. The only people who wore helmets were human cannon balls, and the only people who didn’t smoke like chimneys were nuns.

But when it came to illnesses, we were all pretty much screwed.

We fifties babies were issued one vaccine in the hospital for small pox, and then we were sent home to not die of smallpox. But for everything else, we babies were on our own.

We had to take our chances out there in the cold, cruel, lard-infested world with nary a helmet, a shin pad or a government-approved baby car seat to protect us. (To be fair, my baby brother did have a car seat.  It hooked to the middle of the front seat and had a steering wheel.)

Come to think of it, just making it home from the hospital alive was a miracle.  Since there were no car seats,  I suppose some babies might have bought the farm by rolling off the back seat when Dad slammed on his brakes.

But whenever that happened I think they just flipped a uey and went right back to the hospital and grabbed another baby.  After all, this was the 50’s, and there were plenty more where that came from.

Fun Fact:  Whenever anyone ordered a round for the bar back in the 50’s, they were talking about a round of babies. 

Anyway, once we made it home alive, the first thing we did was get sick with one of the following childhood illnesses:

Measles:  

Measles were little red spots that would suddenly appear all over your body. One minute you’d be pulling the string on your Chatty Cathy and then next minute,  Ping!  Ping! Ping!  You’ve got the measles! They didn’t hurt or itch or anything.  You just had to go around looking stupid.

There were two  types of measles:  The Three-day Measles and the dreaded . . .  gulp . . . Red Measles!   Everybody said you could die from the Red Measles, so you got to eat more ice cream with the Red Measles than with the Three-Day Measles because that bowl of vanilla ice cream you were enjoying just might be your last.

When I had  the Red Measles, my mother wouldn’t let me watch television because they thought that watching TV when you had the Red Measles could cause blindness. Honestly!  So I listened to soap operas on the radio. It’s the only time I ever listened to soap operas broadcast over the radio.  And on a scale of one to ten enjoyment-wise, I’d give radio soap operas a measly one, frankly.

Mumps: 

Okay, mumps were the weirdest thing ever.  First of all,  there’s the name Mumps. To me it always sounded like something you’d call the grandpa you didn’t like very well.  “Oh great here comes Grandpa Mumps!  Quick hide the pie!”

But also, if you thought you looked stupid when you had the measles,  it was nothing and I mean nothing compared to the stupid you looked when you had the Mumps.

Warning:  I’m going to stick a picture in here of someone who has the Mumps.  If you’re eating, you might want to leave the room:

Girl with Mumps

Okay, I googled mumps and this came up.  I have no idea what is going on here, but whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be going well.

I have a feeling Grandpa Mumps is behind this!

Tonsillitis:

Back in the 50’s,  9 out of 10 kids, chose tonsillitis as their “go to” stay home from school illness.  I know I did.  And so did my brother, Peter.   Peter,  however, pulled it one too many times and suffered a fate worse than staying home everyday getting to eat ice cream.  “He had to have his tonsils pulled.”  Mind you, he could have had “a procedure to have his tonsils removed”  but they didn’t sugar coat things back in the fifties — except for every morsel of food you put in your mouth.

Having your tonsils out was a little bit better than having the Red Measles though. For one thing, you got to watch TV without the worry of  going blind(unless you had a really bad surgeon) and you got to bang on a pan with a spoon if you need more ice cream because it hurt to yell “Can I have more ice cream!”

All in all, having your tonsils out wasn’t such a bad thing.  Except you never got to use it as an excuse to stay home from school again so it definitely had it’s down-side.

Unless you were lucky enough to come down with an appendicitis — but back in the 50’s we were still using our appendix as a second stomach.  We still needed our second stomachs.

After all, we had a lot of lard to digest.

8 thoughts on “Childhood Illnesses of the 50’s that Really Sucked

  1. Okay. I admit it. I did us tonsillitis more than a few times to keep from going to school, but only on days of week starting with the letter “T” and odd numbered days. Fortunately, I still have my tonsils when means I get ice cream as long as I don’t pound on a pan with a spoon. My wife has no sympathy and calls me a whiner. She doesn’t believe me when I say, “It hurst when I swallow.”

  2. Hi Linda,

    Happy Holidays! Hope you’re doing well. Is your address

    Would love to see you.

    Love,

    Claudia

    On Fri, Dec 10, 2021 at 1:06 PM Linda Vernon Humor wrote:

    > Linda Vernon posted: ” Back in the 50’s, life was a lot simpler than it is > now. The only people who wore seat belts were test pilots. The only people > who wore helmets were human cannon balls, and the only people who didn’t > smoke like chimneys were nuns. But when it came to” >

  3. This is absolutely brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I remember in Roald Dahl’s ‘Boy: Tales of Childhood’ he had his tonsils pulled. It was the most shocking thing I had ever read at the raw age of 8. Brilliant. Shocking. Never forget.

    • Oh I haven’t read that. I’ll have to look it up. I remember my mother telling me that when she was in grade school back in the 30’s that a doctor came to school and pulled out the kids tonsils during lunch hour! Luckily she wasn’t one of them! Anyway, glad you enjoyed it and thank you for visiting!

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