Robert B. Albright
As a small boy growing up in Kokomo, Indiana, my father had polio. In 1898 they didn’t call it that. But from the symptoms my Grandmother and he described, that’s what it was. It did not go into the paralytic stages, but still, the effects of polio can be quite bad.
After he recovered somewhat he was very frail and was not very healthy as a child. In addition, he was prone to get horrible nosebleeds.
As boys tend to do, he loved to wander all over the place. In those days, there was a “white section” of town, and a “black section”; segregation was the norm if not the law. He usually stayed in the white section, as his family would have expected. One hot summer day he was far from home and at the edge of both communities.
His nose started to bleed. With his clothes covered with blood, he went to a couple of houses in the white section, seeking help from an adult. They just ran him off.
My father wandered further away from home, and eventually bled so much he could no longer stand up. Nearby a group of people was having a family gathering. One of the ladies there saw my father’s plight. Because of the occasion, she was dressed in her finest clothes. My father was covered with blood and dirt, but that didn’t make any difference to that lady. Here was another human being who needed help and needed it now. She scooped him up and took him back to her family gathering.
In today’s world, ruining her clothes may not seem like much. But in those days, the average family owned two sets of clothes: one for “every day” and one for dressing up.
She and her relatives worked on my father until they got the nosebleed stopped. They used their valuable ice on him — ice they wouldn’t have had, if not for the party. It was far too expensive in those days.
After stopping his bleeding, they washed him up, by which time he was barely conscious. While rendering first aid, this lady inquired where my father lived. Having already interrupted her family party to help him, she took this frail little boy in her arms and began to carry him home.
It was a couple miles to my father’s house. By now, my grandmother was worried, and looking for him. My grandmother met her part way, then rushed home with her son in her arms.
The lady who rushed to my father’s aid was black, and in those days could have gotten into trouble for going into the white neighborhood. Not while carrying a white boy home, but on her way back without him.
Had my father bled to death on that hot Indiana day so many years ago, I wouldn’t be here. The rest of my family and I are in that lady’s debt still, over a century later.