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Casper recalls Scarlet fever quarantine
Verna Casper
In 1935 and ‘36, many people experienced life similar to what we are living now. Scarlet Fever swept across Wisconsin during the depression and many found themselves locked down on quarantine.
According to an editorial that ran in the State Journal on Jan. 30, 1936, “Scarlet fever has proved more of a scourge the past year in Wisconsin than in many preceding years. There were 18,642 cases of the disease in Wisconsin during 1936. The December record was 2,155 cases, which was 1,548 greater than the monthly average for the past six years. The State board of health claims the foothold obtained by scarlet fever in the state has been caused by the carelessness of parents in failure to isolate borderline and mild cases of the disease by enforcing quarantine regulations. Scarlet fever can be kept in check through quarantine measures. The people of Wisconsin have the power to stamp out the disease. The welfare of the state demands that this be accomplished!”
95-year-old lifelong Fennimore resident Verna Casper, or V as she likes to be called, was quarantined with her family at home after the illness struck.
“I was 10 and the last one to get sick,” V recalled. “I had a red rash, a sore throat and a very high fever. It was so high I became delirious and thought the rugs were rolling up and the stove was moving.”
V recalled her mother placing a cold cloth on her forehead and staying by her side through the illness.
“My fever was so high, she didn’t know what else to do,” V noted.
During the family’s illness, the local health department came out and put a large sign on their door to alert the public that the family was on quarantine.
“At the time I really thought that sign was something else! It seemed like we had every illness there was back then. I don’t remember getting any vaccines, just taking goiter pills at school,” V said. “It wasn’t bad though, it was the Depression and everyone stayed home then anyway. There were very few cars on Highway 35, you’d be lucky if you saw 20 cars all day. When they came later to take it (the sign) down, they told us we had to burn all of our rag balls we had made for sewing rugs because the germs would be in the rags.”
As the young V recovered at home on quarantine, her fourth grade class gathered Valentines and left them in her mail box.
“I can always remember the date of when I was sick because of those Valentines,” V recalled. “I sure loved those Valentines, and I still love receiving cards. The elderly need to get cards and letters, especially now!”
V went on to explain that because she missed two months of school, she had to repeat the fourth grade.
“I don’t know what these kids are going to do,” V noted.
Despite being stuck on quarantine at the time, there seemed to be plenty for her family to do and enough to get by on.
“We had a big garden and mom canned a lot of veggies,” V noted. “We had also had a cow, some chickens, plum tree and a big apple tree. We traded eggs for flour and sugar when we needed it.”
Many now seem to express interest in taking on gardening again and being more self sufficient following all of this uncertainty.
“You’d be amazed how much gardening you can do even in a small space,” V offered. “There are a lot of plants you can string right up and it takes up hardly any space at all.”
Life hasn’t slowed down a terribly lot for V despite this current state of quarantine. She has kept herself busy doing puzzles, cleaning and organizing her home, and of course making lots of phone calls to friends and family.
“The virus scares me, but I don’t mind staying at home, but I wish everyone else would stay home too. That is what we need. There were a lot less people in the ‘30s when I was quarantined. Now there are so many more, and so many more cars, it feels like it might take longer than a couple of months to clear this all up,” V explained. “I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. I think that’s what has kept me going so long, staying busy. But I think everyone should stay home. I am lucky to have so many good friends that check on me. My neighbor Connie Jackson calls me every day to make sure I don’t need anything and my step-daughter is always checking on me to make sure I don’t need any food. And I am able to pick up the senior meals and they are a God-send! They are the best meals and cheap too! So many places are delivering now or making it so you don’t even have to get out of your car to get done what you need to do. In some ways, this whole thing is helping people to grow closer, even though they have to be apart.”
V looks forward to the weather warming up and being able to get out and walk down the road and sit on her deck and talk to her neighbors and friends, from a distance of course.
“I should be able to sit on my deck and have them sit in a chair in the lawn and visit, that should give me a good 10 feet,” V noted.
She does, however, miss the small things now that quarantine is in place.

“I miss seeing all the little day care kids go by,” V said. “But I’m getting plenty of entertainment still from my window. There have been kids flying kites and swinging. I’m getting plenty of phone calls, so many phone calls it’s almost hard to get things done. I am lucky to live in such a good neighborhood.”