Author Topic: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?  (Read 1702 times)

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« on: December 04, 2020, 07:51:14 am »
Yesterday I was asked about how brevet riding was affected by the 1918-9 Spanish Flu and 1957-8 Asian Flu epidemics. I don’t recall much about the effects of pandemics in any of the cycling histories and memoirs that I have read. I think there was an almost throwaway mention of Asian Flu in “One More Kilometre and We’re in the Showers” but otherwise not much. Any other references in books that forumites have read?

I asked both Barry Parslow and another London cyclist who was a teenager in 1957 about the Asian Flu and they could recall nothing about that particular event, in comparison to the effects of C19 on society. Various records from that time mention that so-and-so died from or had their sporting career altered by catching flu but otherwise very little.

There are some folk on here who were children or teenagers during the 1957 epidemic. What are your memories of that time? In particular, but not just, how did the epidemic relate to cycling.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2020, 09:45:03 am »
Too young to remember 1957, but I was a teenager during the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 68/69.  That was when I started club riding.  No issues, group riding, all businesses (cafes, pubs, shops, schools - everything) open as normal.

Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2020, 09:58:02 am »
Was at school at the Angel, Islington, 13yrs old. Only memory is of fellow pupils falling ill at school, and rest of us competing to be the one who accompanied them home!

Wasn't cycling to school yet at that age, but father continued to cycle to work from Highbury to Holborn. The only thing that ever put him off was snow, when he would drive or take the bus.

No idea about competitive cycling at that time.

Salvatore

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Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2020, 10:15:37 am »
I've had a quick scan for the phrase "cycle racing" in the British Newspaper Archive in late 1918 and 1919, and most of the references are to clubs and associations starting up again after the 4-year pause caused by WW1. Several refer to a boom in cycle racing in 1919, and a huge number of entry forms issued by the governing body. Also 6-day racing took place in New York in December 1918. Spectators at one cycle race meeting in Rochdale were down, but that was (it was speculated) because most of the "big names" of the pre-WW1 era were no longer active. No mention of any effect of flu (but it was a quick scan).

[Aside] Not relevant to your question, but there were a couple of articles (in March and May 1918) contrasting the wartime views on cycle-racing in France and the UK. In the UK the public perception was that any able-bodied young man should be in khaki (even though the writer pointed out that it would be good exercise for those engaged in work of national importance*) , whereas in France in March 300 cyclists took part in a 30-mile race from Versailles, and in May Paris-Tours was held and velodromes were open.

*like my grandfather, who in one of his letters in 1918 wrote that on his way home** his front light kept blowing out.

** on a stretch of road used by the 1989 LEL
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et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Salvatore

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Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2020, 10:27:21 am »
Star Green 'un (a Sheffield Saturday evening sports paper) - Saturday 06 July 1918

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et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Salvatore

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Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2020, 10:32:31 am »
Rugby Advertiser - Saturday 13 July 1918

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et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

TimC

  • Old blerk sometimes onabike.
Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2020, 12:19:11 pm »
Too young to remember 1957, but I was a teenager during the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 68/69.  That was when I started club riding.  No issues, group riding, all businesses (cafes, pubs, shops, schools - everything) open as normal.

Me too, but in my area there were several businesses closed simply because many of the staff were off sick. I wasn't cycling distances that mandated looking for cafes (I was at boarding school and time out of the gates was limited and policed firmly!), but I have quite strong memories of it being a fairly traumatic time.

Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2020, 01:53:58 pm »
I was in my first year at uni during the Asian flu and I remember being quite ill for 3 or 4 days and staying in bed in my hall of residence.However 2 days later I was able to go on the uni cycle club run without difficulty.As far as I can remember there were no problems with cafes or shops being closed. I was too puritan to register any knowledge of pubs at that time but did go to a cinema.

Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2020, 03:05:34 pm »
Mother was in fifth form in 57.  Passed her by, no change to normal life, no restrictions or stuff closed, and doesn’t remember anyone dying.

TimC

  • Old blerk sometimes onabike.
Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2020, 04:46:49 am »
The H2N2 flu of 1957-58 is 'credited' with causing 33,000 deaths in UK. and around 1m worldwide. The UK sickness benefit payments system was hit for £10m in extra outgoings (goodness knows what that is in 2020 £!) and the Dow lost 15% of its value in late 1957.

The H3N2 flu of 1968-69 killed slightly more (numbers are a bit variable, but I've seen estimates from 30k to 80k in UK, and 1m to 4m worldwide). In UK, it was prevalent over quite a long time - about 15 months - and had a significant impact on younger people. In both outbreaks, it seems that more people were ill to an 'inconvenient' (ie off work) level than in the Covid-19 outbreak. As I say, I remember a significant number of businesses being closed for a while in 1968-69, and a little research shows that there were ad-hoc infirmaries like the Lighthouse hospitals popping up around the place, but that the peak death rates were nothing like what we are currently experiencing.

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2020, 11:53:40 am »
Thanks for the memories, hard numbers and historical research. Please continue, I (and possibly others) like being educated.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Salvatore

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Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2020, 05:25:39 pm »
Clitheroe Advertiser and Times - Friday 20 September 1957. I suspect the rally mentioned is of the sort with numerous categories such as freewheelng, speed-judging, map-reading etc


Edit: It appears I was wrong. Other newspaper reports suggest it was organised by the police and involved a 2.5 mile course and points awarded according to adherence to the highway code. Senior and junior winners each won a new bike and a silver cup. The senior winner was 13 years old.
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et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Pedal Castro

  • so talented I can run with scissors - ouch!
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Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2020, 05:31:51 pm »
My parents say the '57 Asian flu was just as bad in their minds. My father who was in the Navy said that on some ships almost everyone became bunk/hammock ridden for days.

Salvatore

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Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2020, 05:46:08 pm »
Crewe Chronicle - Saturday 02 November 1957
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et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Salvatore

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Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2020, 05:54:35 pm »
My parents say the '57 Asian flu was just as bad in their minds. My father who was in the Navy said that on some ships almost everyone became bunk/hammock ridden for days.
Lots of newspaper reports of naval ships being badly hit. e.g. Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Wednesday 09 October 195
Quote
et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #15 on: December 07, 2020, 07:43:17 am »

TimC

  • Old blerk sometimes onabike.
Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #16 on: December 07, 2020, 10:33:47 am »
Note that it was taken seriously enough that a vaccine was developed and became available in a similar, or even shorter, timescale as the Covid-19 vaccines.

Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #17 on: December 07, 2020, 11:24:12 am »
the 1957 vaccine development in the USA might look like an excellent example of co-ordinated action.  But it more sort of wasn't.  It is widely acknowledged that an expert who worked for the US government more or less acted on his own initiative and got samples of the virus very early on (early 1957), tested them against blood samples from the general population, and realised that no-one would be immune.  He then recommend that the government pursue development of a vaccine ASAP.  All good so far.  But.... his bosses (for some reason) refused to take the threat seriously and wouldn't take action.  The expert then (behind his bosses backs) went directly to several leading US drug companies and -mainly because of his credentials-  several of the companies immediately started vaccine development, which meant that they had about a nine-month head start which they otherwise wouldn't have had.

As it was about 10% of global  casualties in that pandemic were in the USA (where the economy seems to come ahead of public health...?); had the vaccine not been developed promptly it would have been a much higher figure.


Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #18 on: December 07, 2020, 12:06:48 pm »
Star Green 'un (a Sheffield Saturday evening sports paper) - Saturday 06 July 1918


I've stored away the phrase 'mischief-making microbe' for future use.  :)
Riding a bike through a city is like navigating the collective neural pathways of a vast global mind.

Re: Memories of cycling during 1957 Asian Flu?
« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2021, 05:39:50 pm »
In 1957 I was road racing and time trialling in West Yorkshire every weekend, I have no recollection of any restrictions due to Asian Flu.