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Remembering the Flu in Newtown

Contributed by Ms Clancy Walker

For many years as I was growing up (I’m now 85), I seemed to be the only one who knew anything about the “Spanish flu” amongst my peers. My mother and father had told me stories about the epidemic – they were born in 1904 and 1906, respectively. They are not hugely important stories but they did serve to give me an insight about the times in Newtown, where they both lived.

Mum would tell me that she was almost all the way up Australia Street, heading for Parramatta Road, and she realised she didn’t have her face mask on. She had to return home to Newman Street – about a 2 km walk – to get it. 

My father knew a family, also in Newtown, who had six sons and lost five of them to the ‘flu. Dad was a very small man – not very tall and very slight build. He told me that the one son who didn’t die who was slightly built like him, while the five brothers who did die were big strapping boys. Not sure if this story was accurate but it’s the one he always told.

I always have had a good memory and love the fact that my parents, especially my mother, told these stories over and over. We never said “you’ve told me that before”!