Olivia Huggins

1957 Pandemic Flu Story Olivia Huggins

Storyteller: Olivia Huggins

Location: New Mexico

In 1957, I was living with my family (mother, father and six siblings) in Maxwell, New Mexico. All of us children (Manuel T., 14 years; Margaret, 12 years; John, 10 years; Bob, 9 years; Julia, 8 years; Olivia, 6 years; and Theresa, 2 years) and my mother, Elizabeth, were sick in bed with the “Asian flu”. My father, Manual Pacheco, survived the 1918 pandemic flu event and he didn’t get sick. We were all running high fevers and did not have central heating in our home; we had a wood and coal stove. The back bedrooms, where we usually slept, were too cold, so we were all sleeping in roll-away beds near the stove. Manual kept the stove going, worked his regular job, took care of the chores on our farm (like milking the cows), and brought us oranges to eat – I do not recall eating any meals.

At that time, people believed you needed to sweat out a fever. There was never liquor in our house, but a small bottle of whiskey had been purchased and it was warmed in a saucepan and sugar was added to it. We each had to take our “dose of medicine” to help us sweat out the fever. I don’t remember how many days we were sick but we all survived.