Auction Day

In the Town Where Bidding for Charity Began

By Madge Cook Wylie

Photos Courtesy of Madge Cook Wylie

In a way, the story of Melba is less about where it’s going than where it has been.

The town may be not much more than a wide spot on the road to nowhere nowadays, but it got on the map with the emergence of an epidemic that began spreading in the late-1940s. Infantile paralysis, which was running rampant in the country, struck several families in the Melba area. My family’s nearest neighbors, the Crams, who had ten children, were quickly affected. David and Mary went to the hospital—Mary for two weeks and David for two months. After that, David went to what was then the Elks’ Convalescent Home for Children in Boise, where he stayed for four months, followed by outpatient care for the next two years.

Their mother, Leola Cram, read the story of Sister Kenny, who had devised a method of heating wool blankets in boiling hot water and applying them to children affected by polio, the short name for the paralysis. Leola told me she heated blankets and sat up all night, tending to the children. The next year, Jack Cram, who not been charged a dime for his children’s care, gave five hundred dollars to the March of Dimes drive.

Among other children in the valley who were affected by the disease was Brandt Reynolds, a fifteen-year-old who contracted a debilitating form of it called the bulbar type. June Trauernicht was thirteen when she was stricken with two types of polio. Following about two years in the hospital, she spent the rest of her days in a wheelchair and slept in an iron lung. Paralyzed from the neck down, she nevertheless graduated cum laude from Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa, where she majored in speech and hearing. She traveled to the College of Idaho to take a class in experimental psychology and later went to Idaho State University in Pocatello, earning a master’s degree in speech and audiology. She was employed at the Idaho State School for many years, always working with the most disabled, while she herself remained paralyzed. We all were touched by the epidemic. I had a couple of children and younger siblings who could have been victims.

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