In the early 1950s, few diseases terrified American parents more than polio. One day, your child was healthy, happy, and thriving; the next, he or she was paralyzed. The disease struck without warning and had no cure.
In the fall of 1954, the residents of Schenectady, New York, weren't thinking about the dreaded disorder. Instead, they were focused on the town's two high school football teams. Longtime rivals, both teams were riding high on exceptional winning seasons. It promised to be the game of the century, attended by a sold-out crowd of ten thousand people. All around the General Electric factory town, eager fans were laying down bets.
Then, just three days before the match, tragedy struck. The co-captain of one team was diagnosed with paralytic polio. A day later, a player from the other school was also stricken. Two vibrant, athletic teenagers were suddenly paralyzed from the waist down. In a cruel twist of fate, polio vaccinations first became available the very next year-too late for the two young men in Schenectady.
Like It Was Yesterday chronicles the events that plagued Schenectady that November and the lasting impact polio had on the town as excitement turned to fear.
As a high school freshman, Dennis R. Bender was an eyewitness to many of the events recounted in Like It Was Yesterday. He and his wife, Colleen, have been married for thirty-five years.
Now seventy-seven, Bender lives in Saint Petersburg, Florida.