Inseparable as a team as they are as husband and wife, Jerry & Carolyn Raville began the Polio Post News in 1985 (named by her daughter, Shirley) while living in Miami, Florida, where they had already founded their first post-polio support group. After moving to Dunnellon, in southern Marion County, they met one of our most respected orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Burton W. Marsh (now retired and happy), who encouraged Carolyn to found another group, which she and Jerry did in 1990: The North Central Florida Post-Polio Support Group. The Polio Post News has continued to be an extension of that group and today reaches around the world. In 1999, the Polio Post News went internet, and in July, 2000, finally came to be known as "PostPolioSupport.com."
My husband, Jerry, and I celebrated our 37th anniversary in May, 2000, with a visit to Warm Springs, Georgia. And believe me... it didn't take a twist of our arms to get us to accept the invitation from the late Dr. Anne Gawne to visit the Warm Springs to visit the Warm Springs FDR Support Group. We got to hear their special speaker, Dr. Frederick M. Maynard of the Upper Peninsula Medical Center in Marquette, Michigan. Since it was our anniversary, Jerry and I said, "Well, why NOT take a trip 'back to the future?'" It turned out to be a trip we will long remember; it was beyond all expectations.
It became obvious we hadn't been out of Florida in entirely too long, because as we approached Manchester, just a few miles from Warm Springs and Pine Mountain, my ears started popping. And I had forgotten how red the clay dirt was in Georgia. Then I heard a train in the distance and I couldn't help thinking about the man we called "Dr. Roosevelt" and his last trip to his beloved Little White House. In fact, a whole flood of memories came back to me. I remembered after learning to walk, as a treat on the weekend, we could ride to Manchester on the bus to a special drugstore with a lunch counter and order
Carolyn Raville standing on the spot where, as a child, she took her first steps 7 months after contracting polio.
Leaving Manchester, we approached Warm Springs Village and then Roosevelt's Warm Springs. As we turned into the foundation I got a big lump in my throat, but it was a good lump, because this was just like going back home after so many years away. Another memory came to me as I thought back to my first arrival at Warm Springs... a little girl on a stretcher in an ambulance. All I could see then was two large brick columns with a sign overhead reading "Welcome to Warm Springs." I had a lump in my throat then, too, but it was a different lump because I had no idea what was ahead for me, what kind of treatment, or how long would I be there. All I knew was that I wanted to walk again and even dance, and I did fulfill those goals later!
Jerry and I followed the signs to the parking lot in front of Georgia Hall. Georgia Hall was one of the first buildings erected on the grounds in 1933. The way I remember Georgia Hall, as you entered from the parking lot and look to your right, at the end of the hall was a beautiful, elegant dining room with square tables covered in white linen tablecloths and white linen napkins. The waiters all wore bowties and served each person. The dining room where Roosevelt traditionally held his Thanksgiving dinners for his friends and fellow polio patients is now a cafeteria. At the far end of Georgia Hall was a post office, gift shop, and entrance to Builders Hall for the boys. The post office is now the information desk and personnel office.
I have many fond memories of Georgia Hall. It was the place to play games, meet your friends, and wait for mail. It's where the tall Christmas tree was placed for the Holidays and its where we sang carols. It is also where Dr. Irwin played Santa! I remembered the "push boys" loading us on the bus for special events in the area, as well as our daily trips to the pools for therapy. In the entrance foyer everyone's crutches and canes hung on pegs. During cold or rainy weather we would have "walking" in Georgia Hall instead of the outside walking court.
As you exit by the door nearest the information desk in Georgia Hall, you will find to your left, Kress Hall. It was built in 1935 as housing for the girls once they could walk or use a wheelchair. Kress Hall is where Jerry and I stayed for our three-day visit this past May. We actually used a room just a few doors down the hall from where I stayed as a patient. Memories continued to flow. In this very room Jerry and I were now staying in, a missionary lived as a polio patient; she conducted Sunday School for the kids who chose to attend. I recalled Iris Keim from Illinois, who was my first roommate. She moved to Miami with her family and we met again in the support group there. Iris took over as president of the group when Jerry and I moved to Dunnellon. Others I remembered included Jean Schemberg, Mildred Monyham, Josette Harta, Connie Heather and Sue Smith. I wonder where they are today and how well they are doing. And, oh, how I remember "Ma" Isabel Harding, our house mom. She always reminded me to rest, rest and then rest some more. I do wish I had listened to her more.!
Wheeling on down the walkway from Kress Hall, there used to be cottages, but they've been replaced by other buildings now. Circle on around and you'll find yourself at the Campus Pool Building. It was built in 1942 and is still being used today for daily therapy. Continue on around the circle and you'll see the Norman Wilson Building. It was built as the first infirmary in 1928 in memory of a young Philadelphia polio patient, stricken by acute appendicitis. He was taken by ambulance to Atlanta where he died in a hospital. Today, his memorial serves as the pharmacy. The north wing was built in 1939 as a complete orthopedic hospital for polio patients. This really brought back memories of the early 1940s and my first day at Warm Springs.
When I first arrived at Warm Springs I had a complete medical and muscle evaluation by Dr. C.E. Irwin and a therapist. Then I was sent to the casting room and wrapped in a full body cast and rolled out on to the sundeck to dry. My mother had to return to Athens, Georgia, and for the first time in my life I experienced homesickness. It only lasted a couple of days because the spirit of cheer, optimism and friendship among survivors and staff was infectious and rampant! New arrivals soon developed a splendid mental attitude.
Another of those memories: Being in a full body cast, they had to watch our weight-gain very carefully. I was put on a low calorie diet. Now we had excellent food, but on Sundays it was always the same Sunday dinner... one half of a broiled chicken. I really disliked chicken at that time so after the nurse was out of sight (and I hope none of them ever read this!) I would throw my chicken over to my roommate. Of course, she had to throw back the bones so no one would catch on to our little ruse. That was a lot of Sunday chicken some one ate for me, since I remained in the hospital for two months before moving to Kress Hall.
I had private schooling while in the hospital, too. My teacher, Virginia Shipp, also a polio survivor, would come to my room daily. When I came out of my cast I had splints, corset, was fitted in special shoes and began pool therapy even before I began to sit up in my wheelchair. I learned to wheel my chair quickly and know about many hiding places to keep from going back to bed.
Near Georgia Hall was the Playhouse where motion pictures were shown three times a week. The films were contributed by various motion picture companies. The playhouse was also used for amateur theatricals. I was sad to find that the playhouse was replaced another building, but I guess progress marches on. The hospital is now used to house nursing and medical administrative offices, the admissions department, and the outpatient clinic.
The Little White House, Warm Springs,Georgia.
Coming out of the former hospital's glass doors at the center of the north wing, I walked on to the Walking Court. Now it was time for tears of joy, because this had not changed. It was just like I left it those years ago; I became a child again and for a moment I relived one of the happiest moments of my life. Just seven months after I was stricken with poliomyelitis, I took my first step on this very Walking Court. I stood on this very spot! I visualized every detail of that day as all of my friends at Warm Springs, sitting on the sidelines in the grass, my mother and aunt included, cheered me on! (My mother had been told it was most doubtful I would ever walk again, but they forgot that this little girl said she
she would not only walk, she would one day dance, too!) I was on crutches, with a push boy behind me, a therapist on either side of me and in front of me. All I could think was, "Let me do it MY way!" They tried very hard to slow me down, stand me straight, but I had a certain pace and tilt and once they slowed me, I would fall. I had to learn the stairs backwards, but what a day!!
Going back through Georgia Hall to the parking lot, Jerry and I followed the covered walkways just behind Builder's Hall to the schoolhouse. This building was built in 1939 and was the gift of Mrs. S. Pinkney Tuck. The building was equipped for occupational therapy and for class teaching, as well as several smaller rooms for individual tutoring. It also had a complete library for the use of the students in school, and we were all encouraged to read. The school house is now where the FDR Support Group meets. This is where we had the opportunity and pleasure to hear Dr. Maynard's presentation to the research doctors at the conference on "Identifying Best Practices in Diagnosis and Care."
Later, we visited the treatment pools that FDR and polio patients from all over the world spent many happy hours in... swimming, playing, and... oh, yes... treatment therapy, too! The pools and their accessory building had provisions for physical therapy in the natural warm mineral springs and heliotherapy (treatment by exposure to sunlight). The pools are no longer in use because the now-required filtering systems cannot be fitted to them.
It was because FDR found personal improvement as he swam in the Warm Springs pool that it became a turning point for polios everywhere. It was there that this man with means and a deep concern for the underprivileged and those suffering from polio, decided to fulfill a dream. Without even hesitating or looking back, he poured over two-thirds of his own personal wealth into something he knew would make life better for many. The Georgia Warm Springs Foundation was founded in 1927. Polio patients from all over the world began coming to Warm Springs for treatment.
During all the years Roosevelt had been coming to Warm Springs, he stayed in various simmer cottages, but during his term as Governor of New York he had plans drawn for the building of what would later be known as the Little White House on a beautiful site overlooking a deep and wooded ravine. The home was completed in the spring of 1932. This home featured simplicity, and he loved it more than his other two homes. It was, in fact, a symbol of his life and philosophy. He spent many of his happiest days there and he died in the home he loved on April 12, 1945. He was exhausted not only from the burdens of office and World War Two, but with the after-effects of polio. We were told to rest and preserve our energies. He could not.
Jerry and I toured the Little White House for the first time while in Warm Springs. We felt very special meeting Steve Layne, who is a tour guide at the Little White House, and Suzanne Pike, who lived all her life in Warm Springs and was a patient at the age of 8 months. We enjoyed reminiscing about people Suzanne and I knew. After walking through the history of Roosevelt's home with Steve and the history of the foundation, we found ourselves driving up Pine Mountain in hopes of seeing the sunset. It turned out to be too cloudy to enjoy the sunset, but the view was breathtaking. We definitely could feel "the Spirit of Warm Springs," and the feeling of love, hope and peace was present, too.
The efforts of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a remarkable man who encouraged independence, has benefited thousands of people who are physically challenged and continues to do so through his legacy.
I hope that you find that same Spirit alive in the North Central Florida Post-Polio Support Group. After all, it was the dream of a little girl years ago that a group would someday be founded to give hope and love to other polio survivors in future years. That dream began outside Georgia Hall many years ago while looking at the moon and dreaming.
I'm happy Jerry and I had the opportunity to go back in time. It was, as the kids say, "awesome!"
As we said, it was on April 12, 1945, during FDR's 41st visit to the small rural community of 500, he suffered the massive stroke that caused his death. During that last visit his portrait was being painted but it was never finished. Today, the "Unfinished Portrait" is a focal point of the Little White House tour.
Ten years later to the day of FDR's death, April 12, 1955, the world heard over the wires of the Associated Press: "The Salk polio vaccine is safe, effective and potent, it was announced today."
order a milk shake and a cheeseburger. This was the very first milkshake and cheeseburger I ever had and they tasted so good to me then and I have loved them through the years to this very day! Sadly, I could not find the drug store nor could I even remember the name of it.