Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Little Irene", daughter, wife, mother, grandmother and polio survivor

So far on this blog, I have written stories about family members who succumbed and/or survived thyroid disease and smallpox and I have only touched the surface. Until the advent of the smallpox vaccine, the polio vaccine and the diphtheria vaccine (to name a few) childhood and good health was quite precarious.

Last month I posted a short about Lea St Hilaire who grew up in the orchard section of Cohoes, NY.  I wrote that I have a few spoken word stories  from Lea. The first one is about "Little Irene" who survived polio in the late 1930s. Only eighteen months old when she was stricken with polio in Hoboken, NJ, she endured.  Her left arm never recovered but that never held "Little Irene" back.  You can hear Lea speak of Irene's strength and stamina if you click on this audio link Listen Here.   Little Irene, herself,  cannot remember spending time in an iron lung but she will never deny having polio. Both her legs, both arms were paralyzed so she may have been in an iron lung for a while. Little Irene isn't sure what Lea is referring to in the audio portion when Lea speaks of the 'iron lung in the back of the automobile', perhaps it was the Bradford frame used to splint her arms and legs that was put on Irene for the car ride from her home in New Jersey to Cohoes.  
Bradford Frame

Single Child Iron Lung Respirator
Circa 1930s

On the day in September 1944, when Little Irene's grandfather,  Louis St. Hilaire, was buried,  "Little Irene" was sent to my mother for "safekeeping". "Little Irene" says she never gave her up from that first encounter.  Even on the day Dorothy married Art Mylott, Little Irene recalls telling Art  "you can marry her, but she's mine"! Irene still calls me "sister".

Little Irene is the small girl standing in front of  her brother.
Also in the picture ate
the Chard twins in dark jackets and  a cousin,  Kathleen.

Albert Bugaboo Charbonneau and Little Irene

Little Irene celebrating  her birthday
 in the basement of 57 Hudson Avenue, Green Island 

and on Dorothy and Arthur Mylott's Wedding Day, July 1st,  1946......

Dottie Mae Wills, "Little Irene" and Arthur Mylott
in Green Island, NY on Dorothy and Arthur's Wedding Day.
Little Irene was eleven years old in this picture.

By the way, "Little Irene" has always been called "little" not to confuse her with "Big Irene" who was her Aunt Irene Chard neé St. Hilaire. Little Irene was a beautiful bride...

And despite her parents once being told that she would never walk and could never have children, "Little Irene" became a wife, mother of four children and grandmother to many! She is an amazing lady!

Here's the complete sequence of stories about illnesses and disease in our families...

1 comment:

  1. What a remarkable and beautiful post about my grandmother <3 She is still strong and beautiful.
    -Christine Sprusansky