Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Nana Joy remembers the 1925 polio lockdown

Joy Thomas, or Nana Joy as she's known to her grandchildren and great grandkids, was born during the 1918 influenza pandemic in Palmerston North.

Joy Thomas, or Nana Joy, as she's known to her grandchildren. Photo: Penina Momoisea

For the first three months of her life she was cared for not by her mother, but by the wife of the headmaster at her local primary school.

Her mother was very ill with influenza when she was born, and she grew up with chilling stories that illustrated how devastating that pandemic was.

She heard of how her mother lay very ill in bed, looking out the window and watching undertakers accompany coffins, one after the other, a procession to the cemetery.

"That didn't make her feel any better."

Nana Joy will turn 102 this year and on a family video-chat, with four generations talking over each other, comparisons were made as to how things have changed since she went into lockdown as a child 95 years ago.

In 1925 there was a polio epidemic, and there would be 175 deaths across New Zealand by the end of it.

"I must have been about five or six, I was in primmer four. We got notification to say no one could go to school. So we were shut down, as I remember, for six weeks."

As the family discussed the worry that not all children today were going to be able to have access to computers, or tablets, or the internet to do their learning while in the current lockdown, Nana Joy remembered a weekly trip to the post office.

"We were posted big envelopes that looked very important, and in it would be our different tables and different little jobs for us to do to send back. Which we did. It was mailed every week, and every week we had to mail it back. And they marked it and sent it back with it all marked."

She remembers a girlfriend in her class who got polio, and that she had to be treated by being put into an iron lung. She remembers how after polio, her friend would forever walk with a limp.

But as a child, the school shutdown was exciting. It felt like a holiday for her and her older siblings. "We were always very happy, we had quite a big backyard with swings."

Her advice to children currently in lockdown is to use their spare time to take advantage of their education, but still have fun. "So put aside a time, probably first thing in the morning for an hour and concentrate on that."

"Other than that. Enjoy. To be happy in life, is one of the main things."

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Binoy Kampmark: Budget Cockups In The Time Of Coronavirus: Reporting Errors And Australia’s JobKeeper Scheme

Hell has, in its raging fires, ringside seats for those who like their spreadsheets. The seating, already peopled by those from human resources, white collar criminals and accountants, becomes toastier for those who make errors with those spreadsheets. ... More>>

The Dig - COVID-19: Just Recovery

The COVID-19 crisis is compelling us to kick-start investment in a regenerative and zero-carbon future. We were bold enough to act quickly to stop the virus - can we now chart a course for a just recovery? More>>

The Conversation: Are New Zealand's New COVID-19 Laws And Powers Really A Step Towards A Police State?

Reaction to the New Zealand government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown has ranged from high praise to criticism that its actions were illegal and its management chaotic. More>>

Keith Rankin: Universal Versus Targeted Assistance, A Muddled Dichotomy

The Commentariat There is a regular commentariat who appear on places such as 'The Panel' on Radio New Zealand (4pm on weekdays), and on panels on television shows such as Newshub Nation (TV3, weekends) and Q+A (TV1, Mondays). Generally, these panellists ... More>>

Jelena Gligorijevic: (Un)lawful Lockdown And Government Accountability

As the Government begins to ease the lockdown, serious questions remain about the lawfulness of these extraordinary measures. Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee has indicated it will issue summonses for the production of legal advice about the ... More>>

Caitlin Johnstone: Do You Consent To The New Cold War?

The world's worst Putin puppet is escalating tensions with Russia even further, with the Trump administration looking at withdrawal from more nuclear treaties in the near future. In addition to planning on withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Why Thinking Makes It So: Donald Trump’s Obamagate Fixation

The “gate” suffix has been wearing thin since the break-in scandal that gave it its birth. Since Watergate, virtually anything dubious and suggestive, and much more besides, is suffixed. Which brings us to the issue of President Donald Trump’s ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Ethics (and Some Of The Economics) Of Lifting The Lockdown

As New Zealand passes the half-way mark towards moving out of Level Four lockdown, the trade-offs involved in life-after-lockdown are starting to come into view. All very well for National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith to claim that “The number one priority we have is to get out of the lockdown as soon as we can”…Yet as PM Jacinda Ardern pointed out a few days ago, any crude trade-off between public health and economic well-being would be a false choice... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Brutal Choices: Anders Tegnell And Sweden’s Herd Immunity Goal

If the title of epidemiological czar were to be created, its first occupant would have to be Sweden’s Anders Tegnell. He has held sway in the face of sceptics and concern that his “herd immunity” approach to COVID-19 is a dangerous, and breathtakingly ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Trans-Tasman Bubble, And The Future Of Airlines

As the epidemiologists keep on saying, a trans-Tasman bubble will require having in place beforehand a robust form of contact tracing, of tourists and locals alike - aided by some kind of phone app along the lines of Singapore’s TraceTogether ... More>>


  • PublicAddress
  • Pundit
  • Kiwiblog