It was early 1946, before I started to school, and I got my vaccination. It was required for school in those days.
Just a little scratch, it didn’t really hurt, and the doctor swabbed the medicine on. The doctor looked at my younger brother and asked if he would like a vaccination also. He backed up against Mommy and grabbed her skirt and pulled it around his face. Well, obviously not.
The house we lived in at Flintstone, was big and cold. My brother and I slept in that same front room as Mom and Daddy. Our bed was big for two such scrawny little kids. Mother had made us a quilt of mostly wool and it was big and heavy and we called it, “Ole Ten-Ton.”
We used to lie in that bed at night and sing, “Mother’s making gingerbread — making some for me, she said. Nice and brown, best in town. Mother’s nice hot gingerbread.” Or, “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain, when she comes.” I never did quite figure out who “she” was.
We had chickens. I had a Banty Rooster and Bubbie had a Banty Hen. Mostly Mother had Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns. The day after I got my vaccination, Bubbie was in the chicken house, looking for eggs (he said), and one of the chickens jumped out of the nest and scratched him across the face and neck. Not bad, but a scratch.
During the night, his face rubbed against my vaccination area and in the following days that area became reddened and the spot on his neck, perhaps containing contamination as well as smallpox vaccine, began to swell.
He developed a boil and it required a lot of care to get it well.
When anyone asked, “What’s that big lump on your neck, Bubbie?” he would reply, “The chicken laid a egg on my neck.” He never understood why people laughed. It seemed logical to him.
The abscess got better, but some of the scarring on his face and neck remained. When he was vaccinated for school, it did not “take.”
The doctor said that because of his contact with my vaccination, he had been successfully inoculated and not to worry about it.
When school started they lined up all of the first graders and checked to make sure they had been vaccinated. It was necessary in those days to prevent an outbreak of deadly smallpox.
When they come to Bubbie and asked to see his vaccination, he pointed to his neck and said that it was “Here, where the chicken laid an egg on my neck.”
The teacher, suppressing a smile, looked at the equally amused nurse, who said, “Don’t worry, We’ll get you vaccinated.” And they tried, but, of course it didn’t take.
A similar scene was repeated the beginning of the following year, and the following. Then we moved and we started to Columbia Street School.
When Bubbie came home that first day, he told Mother that his teacher had taken him up to Miss Thomas’ office and they and the health nurse had looked at his neck and laughed when he told them it was his vaccination. By this time he had learned not to mention the chicken connection.
Well, Mother had had enough of this. Off she went to see Dr. Watson, and he wrote a note on his official paper and verified that this scar on Jimmie’s face was indeed his vaccination. No more vaccinations for Bubbie.
My mother was a nice woman and would do anything for anyone, but don’t you mess with her!
Loretta Nazelrod Brown is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears in the Times-News on alternate Sundays.