From Fort Bragg: “The [pandemic] has taken a second start at this place as it has in similar other sections and some forty-five or fifty cases are reported. The Board of Health held a session [this week] and decided it would not be advisable to open the schools at the present time so they will remain closed indefinitely. All households where the disease exists have been quarantined and occupants of those who have not contracted the disease are allowed egress and ingress but are required to wear masks. A special watchman has been appointed to see that these regulations are enforced. If the disease is not checked with these restrictions, probably the order will go into effect requiring the closing of places of amusement, saloons, etc., and the general wearing of masks.”
The time was the first week of January, 1919. The pandemic then was influenza, the first wave of which hit northern California in October, 1918. It remained deadly throughout November then dissipated as the December holidays neared. As with the Covid-19 pandemic, further waves or surges followed.
In the second week of 1919 the Fort Bragg Board of Health deemed more drastic measures necessary in an attempt to slow the spread of influenza. On January 10th, twenty-one families in the coastal town were under quarantine with seventy-two active influenza cases detected. The government banned the showing of motion pictures within city limits then soon thereafter all public gatherings. Saloon businesses stayed open, but had to close by 10 pm. The Board of Health also required bars to remove all seating, so if you wanted to drink in a saloon, you did it in a unique form of standing room only.
Talk of opening schools at mid-month led the health board to demand that if this occurred both teachers and students would have to be wearing masks.
Several new cases of influenza among the younger set forced the closure of the high school in Ukiah in the first week of 1919. The Victory Theatre was closed as well, on an indefinite basis. City officials discussed the possible need for a return to mandatory mask wearing.
In Willits, the flu grew so prevalent in the early days of January, 1919, that all the employees of the First National Bank were temporarily laid low. Reinforcements were brought in from the institution's Ukiah branch to keep the doors open.
A coastal family named Lima, recently moved to Oakland, suffered one of the most thorough blows of the influenza epidemic. Two boys and their mother succumbed to the malady within weeks of each other.
Also in Oakland, a former Mendocino County family nurtured a son born at only four pounds in September, 1917, to a robust sixteen-month-old of normal size. However, during the first days of January, influenza swept in and snuffed out the lad's life in short order.
In Mendocino City, a thirty-five-year-old mother of three died as a result of the influenza epidemic. Tragedies such as this brought out the volunteer spirit. A membership drive added one hundred fifty-two names to the local branch of the Red Cross.
After a number of deaths in the town of Fort Bragg during the first days of 1919, on January 12th the city council passed an ordinance requiring the wearing of masks until 'the disease shall have abated.” One day later, Louis Ghens, of that town, died from pneumonia complications after being afflicted by the influenza bug. Another day later, the same pattern felled Charles Mattila. The following morning, fifteen-year-old Isabelle Neal, a student at Fort Bragg High School also perished.
In Ukiah, the flu killed twenty-year-old Josie Laviletta. Still, the more mundane aspects of life continued. In the county seat, many complaints reached law enforcement regarding recent incidents of reckless automobile driving. The local police increased their efforts to enforce the speed law in the town and its environs at the legal limit of 15 MPH.