"It wasn't long before we were all scared of the thing which we knew so little about. It came on fast and the two undertakers were busy all day long doing their job. I was still well but I had a sore throat, then a coaster called the SS Morialty landed here with two cases on board. Now, as you can imagine we were all very concerned about more disease coming to the town - so we all knocked off and marched down to the jetty to protest about it. On the way, we met Jack Macintosh, our ambulance chief complete with his mask driving the two flu cases to the TGH (Townsville General Hospital)".
Joe said when the group saw the ambulance they got very angry, but when they got to the wharf they discovered the ship had been moved out and a small British Destroyer had moved into its place. Joe described the scene "the ship that had been at No 1 wharf was pushed out between there and the concrete wharf, and in her place was a small British Destroyer full of Pommie Blue Jackets with rifles – she must have come in with the coaster. We just stood there confused as we weren't red ragging – we were just plain scared. Then a clown named Crooksy Baker, a wharfie recited 'The Pommie's Farewell to Queensland'. We all just went home disgusted".
Joe told me he got the flu that night. He said it was like having Dengue again. In the early days of the epidemic overseas some cases were misdiagnosed as dengue, cholera, or typhoid because the symptoms were so unusual and not like any other flu. In those days before antibiotics, many of the flu victims died from secondary bacterial infection.
The huge death toll was caused by an extremely high infectious rate of up to 50% but the disease struck haphazardly. Joe was the only person in his house to catch it.
Because it was winter and cold (even in Townsville) Joe said they used hot water bottles and bricks heated in the oven and wrapped in flannel to keep warm. He said the old people who caught the flu died fast. In his case he spent nine days in bed, "you didn't want food and you lost your tan and all your fat".
Everyone wore facemasks covered with eucalyptus as a precaution. Joe's mother asked a chemist to mix quinine with industrial ammonia. She used to put four drops on sugar four times a day for Joe to eat. He said it was awful. He said there were many strange home remedies and a lot of quackery.
"We all had our supplies of Woods Great Peppermint Cure for coughs and colds' a painkiller which was loaded with opium".
Joe said you drank it or rubbed it on and it worked.
"We had Faulding's Chlorodyne- three drops in a cup of water for colic. It was loaded with something, and then we had wonder wool. It was a roll of cotton wool, coloured pink, and smelling strongly of wintergreen and Chlorodyne. It was made in Australia to a foreign formula. You just stuck it on a sore head, belly, leg or hand and the pain disappeared immediately. We used to put a piece of it in our pillow slip and you slept well without mosquitoes – you were still tired in the morning".