by Richard Senate
1918 flu swept the world and with it took between 60 and 100 million souls, no one knows for sure. It hit America hard, taking 450 Thousand Americans. It hit in three waves, each one terrible in its own right but in the first two Ventura County seemed spared with few infections and fewer death. Ventura got cocky and elected to hold the County Fair, seeing as the death rate in Los Angeles had started to drop.
The fair was held in October that year and when it was done the full force of the pandemic hit Ventura County hard. Schools were closed into make-shift “Flu Hospitals” and volunteers came forward to treat the sick. Very young children were spared for the most part as were elderly people (they had immunity from the Russian flu that hit in the 19th Century).
The healthy, able bodied were taken out with a three-day sickness that ended for the unlucky in death. Fillmore was hit hardest in the county and some saw this as the end of the world. But, in a year the Spanish Flu, mutated into a less fatal form and it was over by 1919.
The only monuments were the many graves stones marked with the fatal date of 1918. But there stands a building in Ventura that played an important part in that pandemic and perhaps a plaque should be placed upon it to recognize this event that took so many lives. Its a unique eight-sided building, the only one in Ventura. It stands on the south east corner of Main and Kalorama Street, its now a church as it was in 1918. The churches were closed as were all theaters and schools and the church was turned into a flu hospital. Many who were sent there received the best care possible of that age and the death rate was about 20%. Still it was a place of great sadness.
The Flu Hospital was staffed by Red Cross volunteers (many perished taking care of others in selfless acts of giving to friends and neighbors in need). The building stands, just another historic oddity now but, in 1918 it was a beacon of hope and for that and the terrible time in 1918 it should be remembered and honored.