Encapsulating a Moment in Norfolk History

by Steven Bookman, University Archivist

Florence Crittenton Home’s Time Capsule, Norfolk, Virginia

While filling out a recent research request in the archives, I noticed a box in the stacks that read “ODU Time Capsule.” Being an inquisitive (“nosy”) archivist, I decided to take a look and see what was inside. Up to this point, I hadn’t heard of any active time capsules on campus. The box was a part of a recent transfer from the office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance, which oversees the grounds and landscaping on campus.  In the box were a few early histories of the William & Mary Norfolk Division, the predecessor to Old Dominion University (ODU), and a copper tube with one of the ends open.

Discovering what is inside the copper box

Inside the tube were old publications, news clippings, artifacts, and other material related to the Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers, which operated in Norfolk from the 1890s to the 1970s. The home was last located in the Larchmont area of Norfolk overlooking the Lafayette River. The home’s mission was to aid unmarried women during their pregnancies. One might ask “How did a time capsule with material from the Florence Crittenton Home come to ODU?” It may be a surprise to some people, but ODU and the Florence Crittenton Home have had a relationship going back 45 years. In 1977, the house and the records of the Florence Crittenton Home were given to ODU, with the records being house in Special Collections and University Archives. From the 1970s to the early 2000s, the Florence Crittenton Home was the location for ODU’s Center for Coastal Oceanography (CCPO) before the facility was torn down to make room for new housing. One would suspect that the time capsule was found during the demolition of the building and given to the Vice President for Administration and Finance office.

Inventory of the time capsule

As to the time capsule itself, it appears to have been placed during the cornerstone laying ceremony on October 15, 1949. Included in the time capsule are a copy of the cornerstone laying program and the charter of Florence Crittenton Home; clippings from local newspapers about the groundbreaking ceremony and the new facility; manuals from the local Masonic Lodge; a brief history of the home; a travel edition of the New Testament Psalms and Proverbs; samples of dirt from the area; and two coins, one a quarter from 1948, and the other is a half dollar commemorating the 250th anniversary of Norfolk from 1936. Since the time capsule is important to the history of the Florence Crittenton Home, it will fit better to be a part of the home’s records.

Corner-Stone Laying Program
Dirt from the site of the Norfolk Florence Crittenton Home was included in the box
A small copy of the New Testament was included in the box

So, if you are interested in finding out more information about the Florence Crittenton Home, the physical records are in Special Collections and University Archives. The guide to the collection can be found at https://archivesguides.lib.odu.edu/repositories/5/resources/40. Photographs of the home while it was a part of the CCPO can be found in the ODU Libraries Digital Collections at https://dc.lib.odu.edu/digital/collection/oduphotos/search/searchterm/Crittenton%20Hall/field/buildi/mode/exact/conn/and. A short video clip on the home’s mission can be found in the WTAR-WTKR Hampton Roads, Va., Historic News Film Collection at https://dc.lib.odu.edu/digital/collection/wtar/id/1862/rec/1.

Looking Back at Polio in the Time of COVID-19

by Kathleen Smith, Special Collections Metadata Specialist

Interview with Norfolk music teacher Leah O’Reilly who became disabled due to being stricken from polio. The interview also includes a tour of her home which has been designed to accommodate her disability: https://dc.lib.odu.edu/digital/collection/wtar/id/647/rec/4

Today the world has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic which has infected millions of people world-wide. Scientists are exploring the origins of this virus and what causes it to thrive in order to develop vaccines or even develop forms of treatment (i.e. plasma therapy). Until there is a cure or a way to treat COVID-19, measures such as vaccination, washing hands, wearing masks, practicing social distancing, is the only way to fight it.

There was a similar deadly virus which killed and crippled people-mostly young worldwide, this virus was known as poliovirus which caused a disease known as poliomyelitis or called by its shorter form-polio. Poliomyelitis was an infectious disease that was spread through contaminated food and water, causing varying damage to the muscles of the head, neck, and diaphragm, as well as spinal damage. Paralysis, muscle deformities, and breathing difficulties were the effects left on those who were infected.

Polio quarantine sign-From Penn State News: https://news.psu.edu/story/317052/2014/05/28/health-and-medicine/probing-question-could-polio-make-comeback

Even though poliomyelitis existed back into ancient times, the first reports of polio were recorded in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, which included an on outbreak in Vermont infecting 132 people and killing eighteen. In the summer of 1916, a major polio epidemic broke out in the United States, starting in Brooklyn, which infected 27,000 across the United States, along with 6,000 deaths (2,000 of the deaths were in New York City). As a result, affected families and individuals were quarantined, movie theaters and swimming pools were closed, public gatherings were a rarity, and young people were told to avoid drinking from water fountains and to not to go to the beach. After the 1916 outbreak, there would be a polio epidemic each summer with the most serious cases occurring during the 1940s and 1950s. The worst known outbreak was in the United States was in 1952 with 57,628 cases which resulted in 3,145 deaths and 21,269 with mild to severe paralysis.

“Polio and Children,” features children being treated at DePaul Hospital and the hospital’s campaign to fund those treatments. In the segment one can see a very ill young man being treated in a “rocking bed” in order to improve his breathing and a very young girl in an iron lung to help her breathe: https://dc.lib.odu.edu/digital/collection/wtar/id/1988/rec/1

Over the years efforts would be made, such as improvement of sanitation practices, trying to finding a vaccine, as well as an developing an array of treatments to treat the effects of the virus such as the iron lung, the rocking bed, antibody serum treatment, splints, and hot compresses. A breakthrough came in 1952 medical researcher Jonas Salk developed an injectable vaccine containing a dose of killed poliovirus. The vaccine was put in use worldwide in 1955. The number of polio cases went down dramatically in the United States: 35,000 in 1953; 5,600 in 1957; 161 in 1961. An equally successful oral vaccine developed by Albert Sabin in 1957 and licensed in 1962, used a live but weakened virus, and gradually replaced the Salk vaccine due to it being easier to administer and less expensive in cost. Today there are fewer than 1,000 cases in the United States and the world. I hope the same can be done for COVID-19.

A brief news segment from 1963, features an unidentified medical official urging people to come to a local immunization clinic for an oral polio vaccination program: https://dc.lib.odu.edu/digital/collection/wtar/id/1431/rec/5

In the 1950s polio greatly affected the local Hampton Roads population young and old. A news show airing on the fledgling television station WTAR-TV, called “Tidewater Viewpoint” featured stories/segments on those who were affected by polio in Hampton Roads. These segments are part of the WTAR News Collection in the ODU Libraries Digital Collections.