Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Polio Hospital - Greensboro, NC


The Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital ("The Polio Hospital") opened on Oct. 11, 1948 on land donated by Guilford County at the intersection of Bessemer Avenue and Huffine Mill Road in Greensboro, NC. It had been site of the World War II Overseas Replacement Depot (ORD) recreation buildings. In the 1962, the complex housed hundreds of jailed A&T college student demonstrators, including Jesse Jackson, who was President of the Student Body. It would later become a nursing home. It is very historic and storied Greensboro property.

I have many childhood memories of this difficult time and of the polio epidemic.  From one oral history account: "Pools, playgrounds and recreation centers closed, and soon children under the age of 16 were discouraged from patronizing movie theaters. Churches canceled Sunday school classes and Bible lessons were taught over the radio. Planes sprayed DDT in the streets of Greensboro in the belief that polio might be spread by flies, according to several accounts. While many children remained shut inside, others like 15-year-old Peter Vanstory, son of a former mayor and future bank executive, went to the South Carolina coast for the summer to escape the epidemic."

Racial segregation was temporarily set aside to provide emergency care to the afflicted and stay the contagion. While healthcare facilities in Greensboro would remain officially segregated for another 15 years, white and black patients shared wards, and nurses of both races worked side by side to treat the sick during the polio epidemic. The Piedmont of NC was one of the hardest hit areas in the nation during the epidemic.

In addition to the Polio Hospital, on this same historic property stood a "County Home" for the indigent.  Bessemer High School used the complex for overflow students at one point.  There is a tremendous amount of history at this property.  I intend to encourage a couple of my serious journalist friends to research and do a more indepth piece on this Greensboro landmark, an important part of our past.


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