1918 flu epidemic: Letters from a mother to her daughter during the Spanish Influenza
Copyright 2013 By Franklyn Dailey Jr.
The series of letters reprinted below were posted in October 1918, just 2 1/2 years before my birth in 1921. The death announcement of the letter-writer, who was my maternal grandmother, is dated November 6, 1918, just five days before the Armistice that ended World War I. The events covered in the book I have written (see cover picture above) spanned the years 1926-32. The Spanish Influenza, and the Armistice of that same year, 1918, were fresh in the minds of my parents and their contemporaries. My Dad lost two older brothers to the flu. But, these flu and death events were never mentioned in any conversation in my growing-up years! So, I decided, once these letters were discovered, to add them here as context for the 1920s, context that in my youth of that period, I never had.
entered by Franklyn E. Dailey Jr., April 1, 2008 (incidentally, my 64th wedding anniversary)
Flu epidemic Letters begin here.
Miss Alma Lasher received five letters, written in the fall of 1918, from Alma Valentin Lasher, her mother. These were postdated at Rochester N.Y. in sequence, June 18, 1918, Oct. 17, 1918, Oct. 19, 1918, Oct. 23, 1918, and Oct.27, 1918. The first is addressed to Miss Lasher, c/o Mrs. Shepard at 88 Delaware Ave., Toronto, Canada. The others are addressed c/o Bishop Bethune College, Oshawa, Ontario. Alma Valentin Lasher was the wife of Harry W. Lasher. The couple had four children, Martha, Norman, Isabel, and Alma. Mother Alma Valentin Lasher addressed her envelopes and wrote her letters (on a gentlewoman's note paper) in a strong, flowing hand.
The first letter, postdated June 28, 1918, at 11 PM:
I am so glad you are enjoying yourself, and you surely must be having one grand time according to your letter.
You really ought to have come home before going visiting on account of your wardrobe - it surely must need looking over and you haven't many clothes but I presume they understand. I sincerely hope you have clean clothes, if not send to the laundry. I hope you keep yourself nice.
You must thank Mr. and Mrs. Shepard also from me for being so kind to you - I will be glad to have Irma visit us anytime. Perhaps she would like to come home with you.
Dad just got home from New London - spent Sat and Sunday with Norman - they went over to Boston. If Norman stays ashore for awhile, - Dad said you and Isabel and I might go to New London for the summer. As long as you like the hat, it's all O.K.
Tell me when you come - I am anxious to see you. I might come over and bring you home.
I wrote Mrs. Robson and thanked her and explained why I didn't come - wish I had now - would have liked it very much.
Yes, your report is here - tell me did you get the sash? If not, inquire when you get to Oshawa - and let me know so I can write A&S in Brooklyn.
Love - Mother
(A&S refers to the Abraham & Straus department store. Norman Lasher was in the Coast Guard.)
The second letter, postdated Oct. 17:
Oct. 16, 1918
Was just wondering how you were getting in these days of epidemic - in the Country it is fierce and so many dying. I presume you remember Dean Rook - he died last week of pneumonia - and so many more who I knew of - Is there any in Canada? Every thing is closed here - that is the Theatres, Movies and Ice Cream fountains. Martha is sick, also Frank and Willis.
I still have a nurse - the same our Mis Smith. Am somewhat better, but guess it will finally be operation. This isn't a very cheerful letter but thought you would like to know what is going on around here.
Isabel was all ready and when she applied for entrance to National Park Seminary, they were full with a waiting list. - so she was terribly disappointed so was I as it is a splendid school-she has a bad cough - and I think the disappointment made it worse.
Norman is at Norfolk, Va. waiting to go on a destroyer his address is U.S.S. Breese c/o receiving ship Norfolk Va. been there since he left - and tis full of Spanish Influenza their but then it is all over.
Remember me to Irma -
Lots of love - Mother
("Frank" was Frank VanHoesen, first child of Miller VanHoesen and Martha Lasher. Willis Lasher, a first cousin to Harry Lasher, lived down on the Hudson in Palatine country. National Park Seminary was a young lady's finishing school in Washington D.C., located on the grounds of Walter Reed Hospital.)
The third letter, postdated Oct. 19:
Oct. 19, 1918
Dear Alma -
Received your very cheerful letter - am glad you like it so well - thought probably you would.
Wear your Jersey dress all you want don't save on it and I will get you a new one when you come home. Glad you have a bureau tis a nuisance without.
Your letter was written on Wednesday and I wrote you on Wednesday. (Great minds run in the same channel) (Isabel would ask what that meant) Just as big a nut as ever.
She wont let you have the Petes, if I would buy one to fit would send - but wait, tis'nt long before Xmas - she had it cleaned and got a new linen one to go away with but I guess she wont get off -
You can be glad they are careful over their, this influ over heir is something awful people are dying and it's awful -
Martha is sick in bed with a nurse - a touch of pneumonia and Willis and Frank are over on X-ford St. (a sick home on Oxford Street)
also Mrs. Van Hoesen is sick - and they are quite sick with the influenza so you see dear one can't be too careful.
Norman expects to go on a destroyer soon - will let you know-Write dear - I don't get downtown often. I am still an invalid and its hard just at this time when Martha needs me so much for little Jane.
(Jane Van Hoesen was Martha and Miller VanHoesen's daughter.)
Isabel has a bad cold and everything is still closed (even the Catholic Church) - and you know that is going some - first time in History. Moe Dailey has the grippe in Georgetown.
Remember me to Irma. Makes it nice if you will have company all the way home. L
The fourth letter, postdated Oct. 23, 1918:
Oct. 22 - 1918
Received your letter today. - and dear don't worry or fret because you only can walk in the yard - be glad you can do that think of being sick and not even able to do that.
I sincerely hope you keep well, keep in fresh air all you can that is a preventive fresh air, and keep warm put your bathrobe on at night to keep warm and open windows, hot lemonade at night is excellent for influ.
There is an awful lot of it in Rochester and so many dying - and so much misery - and impossible to get nurses.
Willis and Martha are not up yet - but are getting better. Isabel had an accident on Main & North St. with our Irish Packard, wonder she wasn't hurt - quite an account of it in the paper - I didn't quite understand what you wanted me to send I read it lanyard, what is it
Yes I would like you to go to National Park. I think its great their
Well dear keep well - and lots of love and bless you-
The fifth letter, postdated Oct. 27 at 12-PM.
Kind of expected to hear from you - You want to write so as I know you are well-
I hope by the time you get this letter, that I will be feeling quite fine.
I am going to the Hospital this evening to be operated on, on Monday morning - at the Homeopathic, Dr. Snow is going to operate.
Lots of love dear -
A 5x3 black-bordered card, bearing the following printed notation, was packaged with the foregoing letters. All were found in the possessions of Miss Alma Lasher after her death.
Alma Valentin Lasher
beloved wife of
Harry W. Lasher
Wednesday, the sixth day of November
nineteen hundred and eighteen
The Dailey family was known to Alma Valentin Lasher because Isabel Lasher, her daughter, was dating my Dad, Frank Dailey Sr. in 1918. Frank Dailey Sr. was the last of ten children of William Dailey and Jesse Megarry.. The second of the ten was a daughter, Bertha, who was married to Atty. John Pallace,; Bertha died in childbirth in 1920 The second and third of the seven sons that followed Bertha, James Dailey and George Dailey, Bertha's brothers, died of influenza in 1918.
My mother, Isabel Lasher Dailey, told me that Alma Valentin Lasher, her mother of the death announcement above, died from cancer. She also told me that her mother was born in Copenhagen.
"Moe" Dailey, mentioned in the fourth letter, was my cousin. He was the eldest son of the eldest Dailey child, John Dailey. Moe was a nephew of my father Frank Dailey Jr., who was the youngest of the Dailey brother sons of William and Jesse, but was also Moe's contemporary. Moe survived the influenza and lived into his nineties.