SOUTHWICK — As comparisons of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 1918 flu epidemic continue to be debated, Shelburne Historical Society curator Reba-Jean Shaw-Pichette will present an intriguing lecture Sept. 23 on the timely topic as part of the Southwick Historical Society’s fall programming.
Shaw-Pichette’s lecture is titled “The Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918” and will feature data from the 1918 Southwick Town Report provided by the Southwick Historical Society. The evening begins with a potluck dinner at 6:30 p.m. in Fellowship Hall of Christ Church United Methodist, 222 College Highway.
“We have grace as close to 6:30 as we can manage, and we try to be done by 7 p.m.,” said Patricia Odiorne, treasurer of the Southwick Historical Society, adding that attendees usually arrive a little early so they can put any foods that need to be reheated in the ovens. While some attendees have included the recipe next to the food offering in years past, it is not required to do so.
“Bring your favorite recipe for a main dish or dessert to share,” said Odiorne, noting beverages will be provided.
Odiorne added that President Ruth Preston typically conducts a brief business meeting and then makes formal introductions.
“We will have a table with brochures about membership and our programs for the coming year,” said Odiorne, adding, “We have started our season with a potluck and then a speaker for many, many years, except 2020.”
Odiorne said she and committee organizers are hopeful that area residents will be interested in the evening program.
“We felt that the similarity of the experience we have been through with the COVID-19 pandemic to the Spanish flu epidemic about 100 years ago might be enlightening,” said Odiorne. “The differences between that world-wide event and the COVID-19 epidemic are quite remarkable, for example, the greater susceptibility of children and young adults then, as opposed to the elderly in the current situation.”
Shaw-Pichette shared a similar sentiment.
“It’s always important to understand the echoes of history so that we do not make the same mistakes that others have made in the past,” said Shaw-Pichette, adding, “as an example, the statistics for cities show how, in 1918, mandates implemented for public safety saved lives.”
Shaw-Pichette’s presentation is approximately 45 minutes and will include images and actual period items. Additionally, her daughter, Piper Pichette, will provide assistance during the interactive lecture.
“I use local newspapers and town report figures as well as oral histories to illustrate the scope of the flu pandemic,” said Shaw-Pichette, adding there are many lessons learned from 1918 that she will share with attendees.
A question-and-answer session will follow her lecture.
“This program has grown out of previous question-and-answer sessions,” said Shaw-Pichette, who has studied the flu epidemic of 1918 over the years. “What I have learned, in presenting this in different communities, has been woven into the presentation to create a more vibrant local history.”
There is no charge to attend the potluck and lecture, however, donations are encouraged, noted Odiorne.
For more information and a preview of the 2021-2022 season, visit southwickhistoricalsociety.org.