As obsessed as my mid-century father was with the Cold War, my mother was equally concerned about the war on colds.
To each end they were constantly on alert for unseen, unknown, camouflaged enemies ready to insinuate themselves into our safe environment.
With the same zeal others chased after Communists, Mom and my grandmother Nana Sadie were convinced that hidden microbes and germs were lurking everywhere. For years, Mom had alerted me of the fact that germs lived amongst us undetected- and could attack and infiltrate anytime. Germs were sneaky plotters, carrying out covert actions in every continent, just waiting to overthrow their hosts.
War On Colds
Nana Sadie went even further with her warnings: “The first thing germs do to is skillfully disguise themselves. Germs can appear on money, candy wrappers, comic books, everywhere and everything. Germs carry out their missions of infecting you with diabolic cunning and guile. Most germs spend years in training for their subversive roles making it difficult for the average trusting citizen to keep up with every new infectious con game.
Hokey Smokey! Germs sounded a lot like Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, those two hapless spies carrying out Fearless Leaders secret evil plots.
At the same time, Dad likened a Communist to a cancer cell, “…a monster gone berserk. Relentlessly increasing their numbers”, he explained “cancerous Communists proceed to crowd out healthy societies and begin to steal freedom from the normal countries around them.”
Of course both my parents concerns were not groundless. My mother’s fear of germs was grounded in a childhood without antibiotics, when polio, scarlet fever, and meningitis germs floated unchecked in the air.
Forget about Pepsi, I was relieved to be part of the Penicillin generation.
Dad’s real concerns about Communist infiltration had been exacerbated with the success of the Cuban revolution. It was feared that Cuba was to all extents a Communist controlled state and would trigger similar uprisings throughout Latin America and so extend Soviet influence. Since Latin America was in the United States sphere of influence, any communist foothold seemed an affront.
It was clear we were at war.
You had to be vigilant on both fronts. If you were invaded by an onslaught of germs you could end up enclosed in an iron lung; if we were invaded by Communists you could end up locked up behind an Iron Curtain.
It was all part of this invisible world dominated by unseen forces that you couldn’t hear, smell, or touch, unseen forces that held the power of life and death.
I would catch a Cold War chill that I could never, ever shake.
Copyright (©) 2013 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
Tomorrow Cold War Pt II : Memories of the Mid Century Flu
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