McNeely Hall, one of Delta’s early community hubs, acted as a temporary hospital to deal with a pandemic a century ago.
The building at the northeast corner of Delta and Chisholm streets was the place to go for dances, concerts, meetings and early movie shows, but it had its new use when the Spanish Flu struck Canada hard.
During that global influenza pandemic, Delta didn’t have a newspaper as the Delta Times ceased operating and the Optimist wouldn’t commence until 1922.
But other publications gave an indication of the concern in Delta including an article in the Columbian in January 1919, recently provided by the Delta Heritage Society, which noted that Ladner was to be completely shut down.
“Dr. Oliver, son of Premier Oliver, representing the Provincial health authorities, conferred with the local Board of Health today on the flu situation, and it was decided to place a strict on all public gatherings effective immediately.”
An article in November 1918 already brought home the seriousness of the pandemic, starting with an update on a pair of residents who were seriously ill with Spanish influenza but were on the road to recovery.
Others, though, weren’t so fortunate, prompting the need for the temporary hospital.
“The municipal council at a special meeting Wednesday decided to open the upper floor of McNeely hall and equip same as an isolation hospital for influenza patients. The reeve Mr. A.D. Paterson, Dr. A.A. King, the medical officer, and Mr. E.L. Berry were instructed to carry out necessary arrangements with all speed,” the article stated.
“Great Sympathy is expressed to Mr. and Mrs. Rock Pybus of Slough road in the loss of their two children, who died this week as a result of pneumonia. Four deaths have already been recorded in the municipality and many serious cases are still under treatment. Several cases have already been contracted by those volunteering to nurse those already stricken.”
The Delta Heritage Society has also managed to collect some heart-wrenching letters from a local nurse who looked after patients at the hall, working with Dr. King,
Those accounts, which will be posted online, from Winifred Fisher seem to mirror the experience and concerns frontline workers have faced during the current crises.
In another edition of the Columbian in November 1918, an article noted Rev. R.F. Stillman had just returned to Ladner from a Methodist convention in Ontario, and that the flu situation was very bad there.
Stillman said people there were incensed “at the spirit of materialism” which closed the churches but allowed theatres to remain open.