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A note from the ages

Jeanne Sager - Columnist
Posted 5/17/21

As a reporter, I suppose choosing a favorite section of the newspaper is a bit like a parent choosing a favorite child. And yet Down the Decades has always held a special place in my heart.

That …

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A note from the ages

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As a reporter, I suppose choosing a favorite section of the newspaper is a bit like a parent choosing a favorite child. And yet Down the Decades has always held a special place in my heart.

That I started at the Democrat as a teenager when Decades' original compiler, Lee Hermann, was still with us and showing me the ropes plays more than a small role in that.

But there's no denying my nerdy nature and fascination with the way things were done back in the day — or more to the point, things that were deemed important enough to make the paper.

Missing horses, a delivery of farm wagons ... nothing was off-limits.

And more often than not small nuggets of history come to light showing that as much as things change, things stay very much the same.

Take, for example, this discovery of a historical item from 140 years ago- 1881- in a recent Decades: "There is a notice up for all pupils of School No. 1, Narrowsburg, to be vaccinated under penalty of being excluded from school."

By then, it was nothing out of the ordinary. Research published by the CDC shows Massachusetts passed the first state law mandating vaccination in 1809 and likewise became the first state to enact a school vaccination requirement in 1855.

The Narrowsburg edict came nearly 30 years after the Massachusetts school law (granted, this snippet of history is just that — a snippet — and it's likely there were plenty of other, similar, edicts at the time and perhaps before it).

At the time, research (this time into the National Institutes of Health archives) shows the main vaccine available was Edward Jenner's smallpox immunization, the shot that would go on to help eradicate the disease. The last smallpox outbreak occurred in the US in the 1940s, and the World Health Organization would go on to say the disease was gone in 1980, just under 100 years after that mandate was issued in Narrowsburg.

Imagine that.

Small mandates in small towns, small measures made by individual families to help protect one's community with herd immunity would go on to help change the course of history for the entire world.

Let's hope that as much as things have changed this is something that might stay the same.

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