Some people called it “infantile paralysis.” Various folks referred to it as “poliomyelitis.” And others characterized it as simply, “polio.” Regardless of the terminology, polio was a dreaded disease when my generation of the 1930s was still sprouting its wings in the 1940s and 50s.

Thanks to a genius like Dr. Jones E. Salk and his colleagues in the medical profession, a significant drop occurred in the number of polio cases between 1947 and 1956. Dr. Salk developed a vaccine that was a major breakthrough in fighting the disease. Without messing up my attempts to explain medical language, polio was a highly contagious virus that injured or destroyed nerve cells that control muscles, resulting in various degrees of paralysis.

Those too young to recall the polio scares of years past need only question their parents or grandparents about the disease. Many of us in the twilight age-zone had family members, friends or neighbors who suffered from polio.

When reading a trace of history about the disease, and its impact on the world more than a half-century ago, I uncovered some stunning information. The average number of cases reported each year in the United States alone between 1947 and 1954 was 33,000. After the Salk vaccine, their number of cases declined to 29,000 by 1955, and continued to slide in succeeding years. By 1955, 7.5 million children in the U.S., Canada and Denmark were inoculated with the vaccine under government-sponsored programs.

There wasn’t a single incident reported as a result of the mass inoculations. Two doses were given one month apart and a third booster dose was given just before the polio season started. Polio usually started striking its victims in April, but the peak periods were May, June, July and August. The outbreaks determined when school opened in the fall.

I remember when my wife and I took our two sons to the old Lloyd Goodfellowship Hall, now a parking lot across from Lloyd-Flanders, for mass polio inoculation. Although the polio panic was worse in the 1940s and 50s, parents who matured in that period did not take any chances with their own children. They took advantage of the Salk vaccine.

Some of the yellowish-colored newspaper clippings in my filing folders, plus a review of the times in world yearbooks, document the fright about polio. The baby books of our sons registered their inoculations.

Preventive medicine and the treatment of the disease has magnified so dramatically in health care advantages in recent decades that many of us seem to forget how it was during our maturing years. Sometimes it’s good to pause and attain a better understanding and a deeper appreciation of medical advancements.

The Menominee Herald-Leader and the Marinette Eagle-Star both carried front page stories on most days of the week when the polio season approached. If a story didn’t make it to page one, it was displayed on page two. An Aug. 31, 1955, newspaper account tells of the polio epidemic that was sweeping Europe, Germany, Scotland, Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Norway were the hardest hit. Denmark was lauded for reducing the number of polio cases in its country tenfold because of mass inoculations. Other European countries adopted the same prevention program the following year.

In a separate front page story, the Wisconsin Board of Health reported 921 cases of polio through August of 1955. Winnebago County alone had six polio deaths. Outagamie County reported 260 cases per 100,000 population compared to Milwaukee County’s ratio of 26 per 100,000 population.

Three Green Bay high schools — West, East and Premontre — canceled football practice and delayed the opening of school. Seventy school districts in Massachusetts were closed with more than 2,275 polio cases reported to health officials.

The Menominee Maroons were scheduled to meet Green Bay Premontre (now Notre Dame) on Sept. 8, 1955. The game was canceled because of the polio epidemic in Green Bay. Green Bay schools didn’t start their football practices until Sept. 19 that year, and played an abbreviated schedule.

Menominee High School had a nine-game football card and a 15-game basketball slate in the 1955-1956 school year. It was a period when the Michigan High School Athletic Association allowed only a combination of 24 games in football and basketball. Some schools opted for eight football games and 16 basketball outings. Menominee preferred nine football games because of the large home gates at Walton Blesch Field. When Premontre canceled its game with Menominee, the Maroons moved to a 16-game basketball slate.

The number of polio cases continued to mount that year in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. While the Fox Valley and most of the Upper Peninsula were hard hit, fewer cases were logged in Marinette and Menominee. Health officials in both towns, however, remained concerned about the threat of the disease.

Television, radio and support agencies were not in abundance in the 50s as they are in current times, and the public depended heavily on the local newspaper to keep It informed about polio. Parents constantly lectured their children, and teachers continued the same script in the classrooms. Some of the warnings suggested that people avoid crowds, don’t get chilled, etc. But for the avid kids of summer wanting to play ball, take in a movie, swim in the creek or catch fireflies on a warm summer night. It was a hard sell.

The fear of catching polio was engulfing because the disease could leave a person crippled for life or worse. The sight of seeing a family member, friend or neighbor in metallic leg braces or in an iron lung with only their head showing, was chilling. Even seeing such scenes in the newsreels at the movie theater or in a newspaper had a frightening impact on the lucky ones.

It wasn’t laborious or burdensome for young people and adults, even the tightfisted when it came to money, to contribute to the wonderful March of Dimes organization that collected money to find a cure for polio.

Finally, our communities were able to relax a little after Dr. Jonas E. Salk was the first to develop a polio vaccine, and a few years later Dr. Albert Bruce Sabin developed an oral vaccine. Imagine how the same joy would unfold today it someone suddenly announced a 100% cure for all cancer and other dreadful diseases that snap up too many of our loved ones.