A challenging time

Jerry Apps
COVID-19 reminds Jerry Apps of the late 1940s when polio was on the rampage across the country. He was one of hundreds in Wisconsin that contracted the disease.

Coronavirus. On the news every day, all day. Cancellations, lots of cancellations. No sports events. No state girls or boys basketball champs this year. No national “March Madness.” University face-to-face classes canceled. No visits to Disneyland or Disneyworld.

For me, speaking at Columbus Community Center, March 21, canceled. Speaking at Middleton Library, April 11, canceled. Speaking at Wild Rose High School, April 19, canceled.

New language developing: “Social distancing,” staying at least three feet away from other people. “Elbow bumping,” replacing a handshake by bumping your elbow with a person as a way of greeting. Stay at home. Avoid large groups. Wash your hands. Lots of fear and concern. What will be next?

The Coronavirus reminds me of the late 1940s when polio was on the rampage across the country, with hundreds of cases here in Wisconsin. I was one of them. County fairs canceled. Fourth of July celebrations canceled. Swimming pools closed.

Polio mostly affected kids, crippling many of them for life. Killing too many of them. Polio vaccination became available in 1955, stopping the spread of the dreaded disease in its tracks. But no vaccine is yet available for this new quickly spreading virus, which causes most casualties with older people.

With all the worry and dashed plans, some good things are happening. The snow is melting, the days are longer, the robins are back, and the cardinals are singing their hearts out as the sun climbs over the horizon each morning welcoming a new day.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Time to take a walk in the woods.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to