The year we didn’t go to the Fair

Betty BeanKnox Scene, Our Town Health

Next to Christmas, the Fair was my favorite holiday. It wasn’t official, but it was important. Superintendent Doyle would give us a day off school and our grandparents would take my brother Butch and me every year.

We’d ride the safe (and less expensive) stuff – the merry-go-round and the kid-sized train that were in Chilhowee Park year-around – but could only observe the exotic and pricey pleasures of the midway from the outside, much as I longed for an up-close look at the Frog Man or the Bearded Lady or the guy that weighed 1,000 pounds.

We’d eat corn dogs and cotton candy and fish for prizes. I always ended up with a couple of those woven-straw finger traps that I’d demolish by the time we got up the hill to the livestock barn to behold pigs the size of hippos, cows the size of elephants and curly-horned sheep that looked like mythical beasts.

Fair Day was big.

So, the year we didn’t get to go made a lasting impression. I understood the reason – I’d seen those pictures in Life Magazine of rows and rows of kids in iron lungs. I’d seen real-live kids in braces and crutches. I’d practiced pretending that I was paralyzed, and I knew that polio was a very bad thing that wanted to get me – but I was still bitterly disappointed to miss the Fair.

The following year, we were back on the midway again. The reason?

Polio shots.

My brother and I got ours from our family doctor, but a lot of kids got them in the school auditorium. None of us liked it, but nobody wanted to end up inside a contraption that did our breathing for us, so we sucked it up, survived and moved on. If anybody raised hell about having to get polio shots, I don’t remember it, although I do recall being a little envious of the kid who didn’t have to get a shot because it was against his religion.

Last week, several school board members raised hell about students having to wear masks. They got quite emotional about the subject, with one member saying that it breaks her heart to see this travesty. I kept waiting for someone to mention the little girl from Rocky Hill Elementary School who had died of Covid the day before.

Nobody did.

Since many (probably most) in the anti-mask movement also oppose vaccines and support unconventional, unproven treatment methods, it’s not hard to see why Tennessee is one of four or five states whose new infection rates lead those of the rest of the country.

It is no coincidence that we are also one of the Trumpiest states, demonstrating the close correlation between supporters of the former president and vaccine resistance.

It’s one of those funny/not funny things to consider the problems they’ve unintentionally created for their leader, who loves nothing more than bragging about his accomplishments, both real and invented. His “Warp Speed” development of Covid vaccines may well turn out to be his most substantial contribution to our national well-being, yet he gets booed for saying he’s been fully vaccinated and boosted by a supporter wearing a T-shirt that invites him to grab her by the hoo-hah. Go figure.

Parents of children in Tennessee’s public schools already deal with the fact that their kids are required to have an armload of immunizations. Why is the Covid vaccine scarier than all the others? Here’s a list of immunizations required for children enrolling in kindergarten:

  • Hepatitis B (HBV)
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP, or DT if appropriate)
  • Poliomyelitis (IPV or OPV) – final dose on or after the 4th birthday
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella – 2 doses of each, usually given together as MMR
  • Varicella – 2 doses or credible history of disease
  • Hepatitis A – total of 2 doses, spaced at least 6 – 18 months apart

There are additional requirements for older students, all the way up to college-age.

Despite being the home of some of the most advanced scientific research centers in the world, Tennesseans have long been saddled with the reputation of being anti-science aginners determined to bar the door to progress. Our pandemic behaviors are doing nothing to reverse that trend. When did we get this way, and why?

Update: Last week, I wrote about Chris Holzen, a Tennessee boy living in Kyiv, Ukraine, whose friends back home are urging him to get out of there. Here’s where he is now – out of the country with orders from his employer not to return until the Russian crisis is over:

“I was in Budapest, Hungary, doing a seminar, and when I was ready to travel back to Kyiv yesterday my employer would not authorize me to return. I had a layover in Warsaw, which is where I will be for the foreseeable future.

“I am safe.”

Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for

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