A ‘Rest Camp’ for victims of the epidemic

by Deborah Akers Mitchell

So dire was the need for nurses during the Spanish flu epidemic that the Coeur d’Alene Press sent an SOS throughout the city: “All women, preferably without children, are requested to report to Dr. Barclay…of the Red Cross. Previous training as a nurse, while invaluable in the present situation, is not required of volunteers”(October 31, 1918).

 These volunteers were quickly trained to provide nursing care both in the hospital and at homes. Other volunteers went to work preparing meals that the home nurses could deliver with their visits.

With hospitals not having enough beds, the Red Cross took control of a hotel in downtown Spokane to gain 76 more beds. Mortuaries did not have enough space and many bodies were taken to buildings belonging to fraternal organizations.

Schools were closed. Stores had to limit the number of customers. Meetings were suspended. Every form of amusement was closed, including the Dream and Liberty theaters in Coeur d’Alene, which were shut down for 55 days. Masks were required and some offices had “screens” to separate customers from employees.

That following spring, the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (A. C. A.), a service organization for women in Spokane, in cooperation with the Social Services bureau, resolved to provide a summer camp for convalescent mothers and children in need of a respite.

Spokane banker Clarence T. Tupper donated the use of his cabin in Delcardo Bay on Lake Coeur d’Alene, and J. C. White of the Red Collar Line offered free transportation on the steamboat Clipper.  Approximately 10 guests were selected by the Social Services bureau for each weekly stay from June 17 through the end of August. The A. C. A. provided auto transportation from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene, a caretaker at the cabin, food, bedding, and hammocks. The Red Collar Line, via J. C. White, donated and delivered fresh vegetables and toys to the “rest camp.”

The first group included a widow with four children, whose husband and father had recently died as a result of the flu, and two other children who had suffered influenza complications and were left crippled with rheumatism, according to a report in the Spokesman Review. Some of the children had never seen a lake and they spent most of their time playing in the sand and wading in the water. One little girl wanted to know if she could stay all summer if she promised to be “very good.”  After the reported success, the A. C. A. decided to run these camps on other lakes, and they would continue for several more years.