For all its serene beauty, the Crescenta Valley was a much more perilous place to grow up 40 years ago than it is today. I came to this realization while watching the recent PBS documentary, “An American Experience: The Polio Crusade.” The show chronicled the crippling effects of polio during the 1950s and 1960s, along with the battle to eradicate the often lethal disease.
Back during the height of the epidemic, entire hospital wards had been filled with row after row of massive medical ventilators, or “iron lungs.” Even one of my favorite TV shows, Gumby, featured an episode with the bendy green character inside of a claymation ventilator. Talk about your childhood nightmares. But it wasn’t just in the pages of Life magazine or on our black and white TVs that we saw the effects of polio. It was right here at home.