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A look back at polio

For many years, parents especially were fearful of the poliovirus. Although “polio” struck people in all age groups, its incidence among children was the source of the most heartbreak.  Those whose lives were not taken by polio were frequently badly crippled by what was sometimes referred to as infantile paralysis.   

Just as with the coronavirus, people who did not “get” polio could nevertheless spread it for up to six weeks after they came in contact with it through contaminated food or water or infected saliva.   

The most famous sufferer from polio was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who became infected with the virus while his family was vacationing on Campobello Island in the province of New Brunswick, Canada, in 1921. Until he died in April 1945, 75 years ago, he was confined to a wheelchair, although he was rarely photographed in it. 

Oct. 14, 1925—A new baby girl, Wilmath Carolyn, was born to William Lee Grover and Ruth Chambers Groover in Hartselle today. (She would quickly be nicknamed “Mimi.”) 

Feb. 20, 1942—A son whom they have named Addison Mitchell was born to Mr. and Mrs. Addison Mitchell McConnell Sr., and Odean Shockley McConnell in Sheffield today. 

March 1, 1942—Little Mitchell “Mitch” McConnell, son of Mr. and Mrs. A. M. McConnell, has been struck by polio. The little boy’s left leg is paralyzed.  

Mitch’s parents make frequent trips from their Alabama home to Warm Springs, Ga., made famous as the place where President Roosevelt has been treated for the polio with which he was stricken nearly 20 years ago.  

Long after his boyhood passed, Sen. Mitch McConnell would credit his expensive Warm Springs treatments for greatly reducing the extent of his disability. Sen. McConnell was receiving treatments for his left leg at Warm Springs when the president died, April 12, 1945.  Little Mitch had just turned 3.   

June 15, 1944—Deaths attributable to polio today were Charles Edward Street and Mose L. Hamby, the infant sons of Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Street and Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Hamby. 

June 15, 1945—Mimi Groover, an MCHS grad who has just completed her freshman year at Alabama College in Montevallo, has been struck by polio. (Mimi made a full recovery from polio and the next year married her high school sweetheart, John Paul Puckett.) 

April 8, 1950—A daughter, whom her parents, Mr. and Mrs. C. O. Scott of Florence, have named Connie Sue, was born today at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital. She joins big brother Lamar at the Scott home on Cloverdale Road. 

Aug. 4, 1954—Connie, the four-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C. O. Scott, has been stricken by polio. (Like Senator McConnell’s parents, Connie’s folks will make many trips to and from Warm Springs. When her treatments are completed, she will also be able to walk without a leg brace. For much of her post-childhood life, Connie walks extensively. However, in the 1990s, she develops post-polio syndrome, which causes a return of many of the polio symptoms from earlier in life.) 

April 12, 1955—Exactly 30 years after President Roosevelt’s death, Dr. Jonas Salk of the University of Pittsburgh announces to the world that he has developed a vaccine based on poliovirus grown in a type of monkey kidney tissue culture that is then inactivated with formalin. This vaccination is given by injection. Two years later, Dr. Albert Sabin develops a vaccine orally administered produced by multiple passages of the poliovirus through nonhuman cells at temperatures in a subphysiological range.  

May 12, 1975—Connie Scott and Hartselle native Bill Stewart are married at the Scott home in Florence by Kenneth Reed, minister of the University Church of Christ, where they met and fell in love.