Virginia Laws: Polio epidemic was ‘frightening’

Published 5:57 pm Friday, April 17, 2020

Mrs. Virginia Laws, soon to be 100 years old, remembers well the polio epidemic of 1953. “It was a very frightening time,” she said.
During the time of the polio quarantine of children, 12 years of age and under, Mrs. Laws, a member of First Christian Church, Elizabethton, taught a Sunday School lesson for children over WBEJ-Radio.
“As I recall, someone was reading comic strips over the radio, and my minister, Fred Smith, Sr., approached me about telling Bible stories over the radio. And, I accepted the offer, and throughly enjoyed it,” she said.
One of those youngsters, who enjoyed Mrs. Laws and her radio class, was Jeannie Chambers, a retired teacher, who lives on N. Main St. “I always listened to them because she would usually call us and ask questions about the Bible story to see if we listened,” she said.
However, Mrs. Laws doesn’t quite remember that part.
Mrs. Laws, who will celebrate her 100th birthday June 3, is still able to drive, maintain her home, and be engaged in civic activities. “I’ve had a wonderful life,” she shared.
Mrs. Laws is the daughter of B.R. and Carrie Taylor. Her father was an industrialist and early leader in the community. Mrs. Taylor worked for the Carter County Welfare Dept. for 30 years. “She was a believer in helping others, and she also believed that women needed to get an education and be involved in their community,” said Mrs. Laws.
“However, I got married at the age of 19, and didn’t go back to college until I was 48 years old. My daughter asked me one day why I didn’t go to college and get my degree. I told her ‘I was too old to do that.’ Her reply was ‘you’re going to be just as old if you don’t go as you would if you did go.’”
At the time, Mrs. Laws was working in administration at Milligan College. She did go back to school and get her degree and became a teacher at Milligan. “I did it to not only please myself, but my mother as well,” she said.
She has been a long-time member of First Christian Church, but grew up in the Methodist Church. “My good friend, Mabel Hunnicutt, and Minister Fred Smith had a great influence on my attending and becoming a member of First Christian Church. I was baptized at First Christian, but my heart is also with the Methodists because that is where I got my first teachings about Christ. They laid the foundation. I love both churches,” she shared.
But, she credits Minister Fred Smith with having a great influence on her life.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mrs. Laws lamented the fact that churches are closed and Christians must resort to listening to Sunday messages over the Internet. But, God has a hand in this, and He will use it for our good. We must never forget that Jesus Christ is the basis of our faith and He has all power,” she said.
Mrs. Laws considers herself an optimist, and says she inherited a positive attitude from her mother. She credits her long life to knowing and depending on the Lord and eating well. “I’ve tried to eat nutritious meals, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve always succeeded,” she said. “I lately have been opting for a drive-though meal.”
If and when this pandemic is over, her family has planned for a weekend birthday celebration at Roan Mountain State Park, and perhaps there will be an open-house celebration at church.
“I have really been blessed with good health, a good church, a good family, and good friends. What more can I ask for?” she quipped.
Certainly, difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic are not new to Mrs. Laws, who saw first-hand the polio epidemic, World War II, and numerous other events which have shook our nation “But, this, too, will pass,” she declared.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox