Wave Two–From 2020 To 1918: October 31

The Susquehanna in autumn

Now And Today, October 31, 2020

Back and forth we’ve gone. Whether or not to have Halloween. Cities, counties, townships, towns, the burbs, the countryside. Doesn’t matter, they’re all up for grabs and on the bubble on observing Halloween. Yes in some places. No in others. And in between the sincere attempts to offer, in a word popular these days, a hybrid.

A normal year finds this the most important day and night for strangers to meet strangers, friends to meet friends, families to meet everyone. It happens with smiles, greetings, laughter, and much more. All ages, across all lines. No other celebration of the year has such an effect on American life.

We’ll get instead the some, the partial, the fraction, the scattered, the uneven, the hit-and-miss but not the full and open enjoyment of Halloween.

Not this year.

Just when we needed it most.

* * * *

Then, October 31, 1918

For nineteen years he’s walked this beat. The town of Danville, Pennsylvania, notched among the hardwood trees and along the bank of the Susquehanna River, is the turf of J.C. Mincemoyer. He’s served as Chief of Police for almost twenty years. Not in the span of time has he had to do what he’s doing now. Seated at his typewriter, this man of action with the gun in his holster hunches over the rows of small metal keys.

Tap. Tap-tap. Tap. More taps. A shrill bell rings. End of the line. Chief Mincemoyer reaches up and pushes the rubber-covered cylinder back to the side, back at the beginning.

Minutes pass with tapping, bell-ringing, cylinder pushing. He’s done. The paper is in his hand, his hand gives it to a messenger who takes it to the local newspaper. Soon, everyone in town knows the news from the man with a face shaved clean, a firmly-set jaw, a sharp and pure stare, a bright badge pinned to his shirt.

“There is scarcely a square in Danville in which one or more families do not reside in which there is illness or which has been bereaved. A Halloween observance with its noise and disorder is wholly out of place in such conditions. For the sake of the sick and in the interest of humanity as Chief of Police I request all persons to abstain from the observance of Halloween in Danville. All persons found guilty of violating this order will be arrested.

Signed, C. Mincemoyer, Chief of Police.”

On the same page of the newspaper’s Halloween edition is the announcement of five local people who are now dead from influenza, including a sixteen-month old child.

Dead leaves float on the surface of the Susquehanna River. Darkness spreads over the water. Owls in the oak trees get ready for the night, waiting for prey.

October will be over in a few hours. The deadliest month anyone along the river can remember—in fact, the deadliest month in all of American history—will be done. Influenza has killed people here like it’s killed people everywhere. The long slog to a better Halloween begins with the first day of November.

The people of Danville stay in their homes and fall asleep. The branches of the oak trees are empty. Owls are on the wing.

* * * * *

Looking Ahead From Today, October 31, 2020

Halloween now is a half-thing. The day and night are not as full as they usually are, regardless of the framework the community is using for its celebration. The entire feeling of the moment is gone for the moment.

We know next month brings the uncertain. Numbers of ill and dead. State of vaccinations and treatments. Needed beds and space. And the outcome of civic actions like voting, vote-counting, and reactions to vote totaling.

We can find the certain. Chief Mincemoyer can be a help there. The things we’ve signed up for. Certain. The expectations of people who know they depend on us and the assumptions of people who discover at the last minute that they depend on us as well. Certain. The choices in front of us and the decisions that heart and head quietly tell us to make. Certain, believe it or not. The consequences and results and outcomes of ignored decisions. Certain, like it or not.

Tomorrow we’ll reach for the calendar and flip the page like Chief Mincemoyer flipped the cylinder back to its starting position. Together, us and him, we’ll begin again.

* * * * *

For Those Wanting To Bridge 2020 And 1918, A Reminder…

Warfluenza and Warcorona.

Warfluenza is what Americans experienced in 1918 when influenza interacted with their dominant issue and concern of the day, World War One. The illness comes to them through their handling of and coping with World War One. That’s why I want you to think of it as Warfluenza. The pandemic and the issue affect each other.

Warcorona is what Amercians are experienced in 2020 when coronavirus interacts with our dominant issue and concern of the day, World War Trump. Regardless of whether you love or hate Trump, Trumpism, and the Trump Presidency, it blends with the illness and thus we handle and cope with both together, inseparable. It’s Warfluenza updated to our world—Warcorona.

I want to reintroduce you to the world of Warfluenza’s Wave Two because we’re in Warcorona’s Wave Two right now with preschool-to-grad school education. If you have someone somewhere in that track, you’re in Wave Two. And so we’re following Warfluenza and Warcorona on exactly the same days across 102 years. Mark Twain is supposed to have said that history doesn’t repeat but it sure does rhyme. Count me as a “yes” to that statement.

As always, I invite you to reach out to me. Leave a comment here, email at dan@historicalsolutions.com , or text at 317-407-3687.