Growing Up With Post-Polio
My father is holding me.....
it is a pre-polio picture in Elberton Georgia in the Summer of 1956
at my Grandmothers yearly family dinner (reunion).
I'm not much of a writer but I hope this will give you an idea of the person I am. First off, I hope the name "Bubba" does not offend anyone, if it does you may want to leave now. I will explain later the significance of that name.
This is me in a pre-polio picture in Elberton Georgia July of 1959 with my paternal grandmother,
two eldest sisters on the right and a cousin on the left.
I'm told you couldn't keep me still no matter how hard anyone tried,
I was pretty hyper and was constantly getting into trouble.
I was born in January of 1956 in Elberton Georgia, known as "The Granite Capital of the World". I was the last of my parents children. I had 8 half brothers and sisters along with 3 whole sisters, Joy, Wanda and Sherry.
My Mother and I in October 1959...I was at FDR's Warm Springs GA Hospital.
I recall how I hurt all the time I was strapped down and couldn't turn over,
but I could smile and forget everything when my family came to see me.
This is my favorite picture in 1959 of me, my aunt and my younger sister Sherry
when I was in Warm Springs GA hospital. That was my sis who stood by me through life,
she was alway there for me until her death.
In October of 1959 I was stricken with polio and was treated for three months in Warm Springs, Georgia. When I first became sick the symptoms were very much like the flu....fever, throwing up and just an over all ill feeling. When I didn't get better from the treatment for the "flu" by the local physician, I recall my father taking me to a prayer revival. With him holding my hand we walked into the revival tent and my legs became like water and buckled under me....that is the last I remember until I arrived at the Warm Springs Hospital about 150 miles from Elberton. I was severely affected from the waist down by the polio. With Gods help, my Father, Mother and sisters, I survived.
This is in February of 1960. I had been home only a short time.
I wore a corset to keep my back straight, the padded clamps you see at my waist was to prevent me from falling forward.
I also wore metal braces on both legs attached to the shoes along with a metal bar between both braces.
This was to prevent my legs from spreading out horizontally when I tried to walk.
This was Easter of 1963 in Elberton GA on Lee Street were I grew up.
To the left is my sister Wanda and to the right is Sherry.
At about that time the name "Bubba" came from my three sisters......I don't know which one started calling me that name but as the years went by, it was used with affection by family and friends. Although I walked in an odd way with full length leg braces and crutches, it didn't slow me down, in fact I was not very well behaved and my father constantly said, "That boy has a hard head!"
Me in the Second Grade ( I failed the first grade!).
I can't remember if we lived in Elberton or Okeechobee at the time.
When I was eight we moved to Okeechobee Florida because my father needed to find a better paying job as a heavy equipment operator. We were a poor family and literally going hungry in Georgia, even though my father worked everyday it just wasn't enough. Before we moved from Elberton, someone said that, "In Florida the houses don't have chimneys" and "the land is flat"! My sister's and I had a hard time believing a house could not have a chimney! Back in those days we never heard of central air and heat.
Starting the second grade in Okeechobee, my teacher called me her "Georgia Boy" because of my heavy Southern drawl. It was about this time I became shy and self-conscious (but NOT because she called me Georgia Boy). I loved growing up in Okeechobee, it was a small town and everyone was friendly and "country".
I saw orange and grapefruit trees for the first time and found out I HATED grapefruit! There were "swamps" with snakes, alligators, racoons, armadillo, deer, and most of all the best fishing of any place on earth....there was nothing like sitting on the bank of a canal fishing with a cane pole. Best of all there was Lake Okeechobee for swimming, and of course I couldn't swim a lick and nearly drown more than once because of "pot holes" you couldn't see below the water. After being rescued by my father a few times (I lost count, I think he did too) he would tell me "don't go too far out"......that was like telling me to "go for it"!
In 1970 we moved to Fort Pierce, Florida, located about 30 miles to the east of Okeechobee. I loved this place even more because it was right on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean (for some reason I don't recall my father going to the beach with us, hummm, I wander why?). My sister's and their boyfriends would allow me to tag along with them (can you imagine your brother tagging along with you on your first date) to the beach, drive-in, and my favorite place, McDonald's for a Big Mac and the 7/11 for a 16 ounce bottle of PEPSI!!
Around 1973 we returned to Georgia and as much as I loved my home state it was never the same after growing up all those years in Florida. I missed my friends in Fort Pierce, my father was away in another town working, I was making straight "F's" during my first six weeks in 9th grade in Elberton. I quit school, stayed home and a few years later my father retired and I was forced to go on disability.
In 1979 I returned to Fort Pierce. My eldest sister's husband was born and raised there and he decided to return after he and my sister lived in Georgia for a few years. I felt it was my chance to get back to Fort Pierce for a short visit. That visit became permanent!
While I was staying with them, my eldest sister Joy, sensed how unhappy I was. I didn't like being on disability and I wanted an education. She went to an agency called the Florida Vocational Rehabilitation. The counselor she saw wanted to see me immediately. From the time I shook the man's hand, with my head held down, my life changed! I stayed in Florida, even though my father and mother begged me to come home.....heck I was 21! It was time I grew up and began to live an independent and productive life. In the first year I went to the local college and:
My father has been gone since July 15, 1989 and was always asking "When is Bubba coming home?" Before he died he did tell me, "Son, I love you and I'm proud of you." My mother passed away on January 12, 2017 in Elberton GA at the age of 85. She was my rock as I was growing up. Right on to the last time I talked to her, just a few days before she passed, she continued to encourage and hold strongly to my faith. She has always been an inspiration for me. I lost my younger sister Sherry, July 1, 2003 at age 48 and my eldest sister Joy in August 2004 at age 52, both deaths were contributed to smoking. I talk to my sister Wanda often but she still smokes and her cough gets worse as the years pass.
Currently I am no longer working due to the PPS. I am thankful for every day I continue to have my independance.
Thanks for taking the time to read about me.
James E. Davis
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