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OPINION: Keeping my marbles was just what the doctor ordered

Published on

Bob Boulton

I had polio when I was five years old.

At the time, Dr. Jonas Salk was busy testing a vaccine in a Pittsburgh lab, Dr. John W. Jackson had become Sarnia’s first paediatrician, and I was at home picking up marbles with my toes.

My parents must have been terrified by the diagnoses, but never allowed themselves to show it. I remember certain details from those days. I stayed in bed all the time. Dr. Jackson visited me regularly in my bedroom. And twice a day, I was required to sit on the edge of my bed, legs dangling over the soft, old squished-down mattress.

Mom would dump a cracked cereal bowl filled with marbles on the floor and I would pick them up with the toes of my right foot, one after everlasting boring one, and drop each back in the bowl.

Dr. Jackson’s office was at 258 Wellington St., near College Avenue, close to SCITS or what some old-timers still referred to as “The College.” Even so, he made house calls, a practice not unusual for the time, but for a child one tinged with apprehension.

Doctors, after all, were best known for giving needles. My mother tried to relieve my anxiety by reading Dr. Jackson’s listing in the white pages of the phone book: “Dr. J.W. Jackson Child Specialist.”

That sounded pretty good. When you’re a child, not much seems aimed solely at you for your benefit. In the Yellow Pages he was listed as a “Paediatrician.” Mom told me that was just a fancy word the “hoity toity” used to impress others.

I was reminded of Dr. Jackson when trying to update the status of the Dr. John and Edith Jackson Pool, a facility named in their memory but closed five years ago for structural reasons.

I grew to look forward to the good doctor’s visits. His daughter recalled him going out on emergency calls with a suit jacket over his pajama top.

My opinion about the pool: Somebody Build a Jackson Something Soon.

Luckily, I recovered. Others who followed can thank not only Dr. Salk’s vaccine but also The Marching Mothers.

In the 1950s, working-from-home moms, desperate to protect their children from a crippling virus, became some of the first door-to-door charitable fundraisers with a “one dime at a time” approach. Radio listeners would often hear: “Leave the porch light on – the mothers are marching tonight!”

The good we do lives after us — Dr. Jackson, Dr. Salk, The Marching Mothers, the grown-ups in our house.

It’s up to us to honour and remember them by name.

Bob Boulton is a Sarnia writer and creator of a blog for new and renewing writers,



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