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1918: The Pandemic And Barberton’s Lost Football Season.

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As the First World War was winding down, an even deadlier entity was just on the horizon. An H1N1 virus of Avian origin was beginning to spread. The first cases in the United States were confirmed among military personnel. The pandemic was global and estimated to have infected one third of the world population with 50 million deaths, 650,000 in the United States. High mortality rates were seen in people under five years of age as well as those over sixty five. While that is not surprising, what was surprising was the high mortality rate among those aged twenty to forty. Things were not much different then than they are now. Proper personal hygiene was encouraged, isolation, lack of public gatherings were all used in an attempt to limit and ultimately defeat the influenza pandemic.

Among the casualties of the pandemic was a portion of Barberton High School’s 1918 football season. Clement “Si” Sickler would serve his only season as the Barberton Head Coach and would guide them to a record of two wins and two losses. Barberton opened the season with a 27-0 victory over Kent State High School. That was followed by a 12-0 victory over Orrville. The following week would see the team fall to Wadsworth 9-7. The last game of the season was a 3-0 loss to Akron West on October 12th.

The last four games of the season scheduled for October 19th, October 26th, November 2nd, and November 9th were cancelled. Those opponents would have been Kenmore, Niles McKinley, Wooster and Akron South. The Barberton Health Department ordered the schools closed starting Monday, October 14th and reopening on Monday, November 18th.

Many of our grandparents and great grandparents lived through this and we too, will survive the coronavirus pandemic. It should also be noted that the decade following the 1918 pandemic was the “Roaring 20’s”. Perhaps the decade following the current pandemic will be just as prosperous for us as the 1920’s were for those who survived 1918-19.

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Rocci Ratay
Rocci Ratay
Fourth Generation Barbertonian. Opinionated and streetwise

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