Interview with Alma Vollers, 1989-04-29

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Interview with Alma Vollers, 1989-04-29
Vollers, Alma ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Duval County Oral History Collection ( local )
Spatial Coverage:
Duval County (Fla.) -- History.


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Duval County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
Resource Identifier:
DUV 032 Alma Vollers 4-29-89 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )


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Interviewee: Alma Vollers

Interviewer: Rick Alexander

April 29, 1989



Interviewee: Alma Vollers
Interviewer: Rick Alexander
April 29, 1989

This interview is part of a series of interviews by Mr.
Alexander concerning the Spanish flu epidemic that hit
Jacksonville, Florida in September 1918.

Ms. Vollers is the daughter of immigrant parents from
Germany. She was born in New Jersey in 1895, and the family
moved to Jacksonville in 1901 for her father's health. Ms.
Vollers was a young mother when the epidemic hit. Her husband,
she, and their baby were all stricken with mild cases of the flu,
and her mother saw to their health. Doctors were few, and their
regular pediatrician was himself stricken with the flu, so they
relied on home remedies for relief, including mustard plasters,
eating garlic, and taking a mixture of melted onions and rock
candy. Ms. Vollers knew of many people who died as a result of
the flu, including her brother-in-law. Hence, she was so
concerned about the safety of her family, especially the baby,
that she paid little attention to the particular problems of
other people and their community. She recalls little of school
closings, canceled meetings, the impact of the flu on social
activities as movie theaters, and the like.

Dena Snodgrass is also present, as indicated by S:.

A: We are with Alma Vollers at Wesley Manor, south of Jacksonville.
Today is Saturday, April 29, and it is 3:00 in the afternoon.
Mrs. Vollers, where were you born?

V: I was born on May 27, 1895 in Lakeview, New Jersey, which is near
Paterson. Lakeview was the name for a part of the outskirts of

A: What were your parents names?

V: Augusta Golder and Emanuel Golder.

A: And they were from New Jersey?

V: They were born in Germany.

A: In Germany. And they immigrated to the United States?

V: Yes. My parents came over separately. My father came to New
York first, and my mother came a year or so later.

A: Through Ellis Island?

V: Yes.

A: That is fascinating. What brought them to Florida? When did you
move to Florida?

V: My father was suffering from tuberculosis, and the doctor said if
he did not move to Florida, he would not live six months. So he
came in November, 1901, right after the fire. [Much of
Jacksonville, Florida was destroyed by fire May 3, 1901. Ed.]
Then he sent for us two months later. My mother came with three
small children.

A: You were one of them?

V: I was the second.

A: Where were you born?

V: In New Jersey.

A: In what year?

V: 1895.

A: And then you moved right to Jacksonville when you came here.
Were there any automobiles at that time that you remember?

V: I think when we went back a couple of years after on vacation,
there was a Stanley Steamer in New Jersey where my uncle lived.


A: But not here. How would you get to Jacksonville? Did you come
by train?

V: By train, yes.

A: Down the old Atlantic Coast Line [Railroad]?

V: Yes.

A: Do you remember any doctors when you were young? What do you
remember about going to see a doctor?

V: Well, I know there was a Dr. Love who was a baby doctor. When
the flu epidemic hit, my baby was six months old. We tried to
get the doctor, but he had the flu, so we had a time. [Our
principal doctor was a woman, Dr. Reichtgard, who lived around
the corner from us.]

A: So you remember the epidemic fairly well.

V: Oh, yes.

A: That is what I am doing all my research on, the Spanish flu
epidemic of September, 1918. So you were a young mother then.
Do you remember how old you were?

V: Twenty-three.

A: You were twenty-three when the epidemic hit. Did you subscribe
to the Florida Times-Union?

V: Oh, yes. And the Florida Metropolis.

A: Jacksonville was right in the middle of the war and there were
all kinds of articles about the war. When did you first hear
about the flu? What is the first thing about it that you

V: Well, the whole family had it except my father. Do you know why
he did not have it?

A: Why is that?

V: Someone told him to eat a lot of garlic, and he ate a lot of
garlic--and he was the only one that did not have it.

A: So who suggested that? Was it a doctor who suggested that he eat
a lot of garlic, or was that kind of a superstition?

V: No, I think that was hearsay.

A: But it seemed to work in his case.

V: He did not get it.


A: That leads me to a good question. Everyone had it. Did it seem
to come really quickly? Did all the sudden everyone seemed to
get sick? Was there much alarm about it at first?

V: Yes, there was, because a lot of people died. It was bad.

A: Did anyone you know die from it?

V: My brother-in-law died.

A: Do you remember being sick yourself?

V: Oh, yes.

A: What was it like?

V: Well, when I was feeding my baby, he was so hot, and that is when
we realized that he had it.

A: Was he the first one to get it?

V: I cannot remember who had it first.

A: But he had it before you.

V: Yes.

A: So what did you do when your baby caught the flu?

V: Well, we called the doctor, but he had it, too, so he could not
come. I cannot remember what we did without having a doctor. I
imagine my mother took over.

A: The paper says that they set up soup kitchens. There were so
many people that were sick that they could not prepare food. Do
you remember those?

V: No. You see, we lived in Fairfield, and that was out.

A: So Dr. Love was the only doctor around?

V: He was the one we always went to for the baby.

A: When the rest of you got sick, did you see a different doctor, or
did you go see a doctor at all?

V: No, I think we used home remedies.

A: What were those, do you remember? Other than garlic.

V: Only my daddy used garlic. [Another remedy was to melt onions
and rock candy together and take it.] It was up to my mother


A: Did you take something, or did you just put rags on the head?

V: Oh, yes, I imagine we took something, but I do not know what it

A: What about the schools? Did they close the schools, or did they
close public meetings so that flu would not spread?

V: I had a sick baby, and all I was concerned with was my baby. I
did not pay attention to these outside things.

S: Did the baby recover?

V: Yes. He is the one who comes to see me, and he is taking care of
everything. He will be seventy-one next month.

A: What were your emotions during the epidemic? Were you worried?

V: Yes, because we heard that people were dying, but we just let it
take its course.

A: How sick did you get? Did you get really sick?

V: No, I did not suffer too much. None of us had it really bad.

A: Except your brother-in-law.

V: He did not have it in the beginning. He caught it later, and he
died, I think, in 1920.

A: There was another wave that went through. What were the
conditions? The newspaper reports said that some of the people
turned kind of a bluish tint because they could not get enough

V: No, we did not have that problem.

A: So it was rather mild.

V: Among our family.

A: But the baby was very sick.

V: Well, he had a fever. I imagine we used mustard plasters then,
and maybe my mother had mustard plasters.

A: What was your general opinion of doctors? Were you more inclined
to use a home remedy at that time, or was a doctor considered the
best thing? Some people could not always afford a doctor.

V: We used home remedies--mustard plasters and things like that.

A: Was the attitude in the family more that you could help
yourselves more than any doctor could, or was it a doctor would
be better if you could get one?


V: Well, in those days, there were not very many doctors. We did
our home remedies mostly.

A: Why did you call the baby doctor?

V: Well, the little baby was only six months old.

A: And you thought the baby doctor might know something you did not?

V: Yes.

A: You see, part of my thesis is that during the Spanish flu,
doctors became more the ones looked upon for health, whereas
beforehand there was a lot of home remedies. I am just trying to
see whether your family considered a doctor more useful, or home

V: Home remedies.

A: When do you remember that you started turning more towards

V: Well, my health got worse, and I think that is when that started.

A: Do you remember when that was?

V: After I had babies.

A: Give me a rough idea. Nineteen twenties? Thirties? Forties?

V: Well, I was married in 1917, and I had a child in 1918, so after
that it was one thing after another.

A: And then you started turning more to the doctors. Well, that is
very helpful. It is good for my thesis. Well, the Great War was
going on at the time. Did that have any effect on you? Was
anyone in your family involved in the war?

V: No. My husband was 4F because his eyes were so bad. Eventually,
they needed so many more people they even took the 4Fs. He was
supposed to go the week the war ended.

A: Where did he report to? Camp Johnston? They had the flu very
bad there. Did your husband get the flu there, or did he get it
before that?

V: No, he got it when he was with us.

A: So he had already had it.

V: You see, he did not get into the war. He was going that week,
but the war ended.

A: Oh, I see. Do you remember what the general attitude was? Was


everybody worried about the flu?

V: I think so.

A: Do you remember reading about anything or knowing of anybody
doing strange or outlandish things to avoid the flu?

V: You see, I had this little baby who was sick.

A: And that is all you tended to.

V: That is all; I had my mind on him.

V: What do you remember that you did for him? Did you keep him
warm? Did you keep him in a room?

V: Oh, yes, in a bassinet.

A: Did you let a lot of ventilation in, or did you try to keep the
room sealed up?

V: Well, there were only two windows, but we did not think about

A: What was the weather like? It was October, but it was not
unseasonably cold, was it?

V: No.

A: Well, I think that is all the questions I had. Do you have any
that you can think of?

S: I wonder if you came in contact with any public activities that
were designed to prevent the flu from spreading, such as the
closing of the theaters, the closing of the schools. Of course,
I know you were so busy with the little baby.

V: Well see, my health went bad, and I had one thing after another.

S: So that was something that would not interest you?

A: Right.

S: You did not know about it. There were too many things for you to
do. You had a brother, right?

V: Yes. He died in 1907.

S: It is so easy to forget dates. Mrs. Vollers has written up a
story of some various things that have happened here in
Jacksonville when she was a little child. They are extremely
interesting. She has presented a copy of this to the
Jacksonville Historical Society, so we know that she has a good
memory on things that happened.


V: It is coming to me the older I get. I never thought I would live
this long. I walk over a mile every day, and I am standing

S: She stands straight out of her wheelchair and walks with her
wheelchair. That is the way so many people do it, and it helps
them. It has helped her.

V: See that arthritis in my hand, and all through my back? But I
can still crochet cancer pads, the bibs for people with cancer.
They gave me a plaque.

S: The plaque is real nice.

A: Yes, it is. Well, thank you very much for your time, Mrs.
Vollers. You have been very helpful to me and my research.