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story.lead_photo.caption During the flu pandemic of October 1918, newspaper ads like this claimed that snuffing petroleum jelly up the nose would prevent disease.

Odd things were happening in Arkansas 100 years ago.

To set the tone, know that wire services reported on Oct. 26, 1918, that a seismograph at St. Louis University had recorded an earthquake. Some experts said its epicenter was in the West Indies, others said Central America. The Arkansas Gazette headlined this report "Earthquake Somewhere."

Away we go.

■ The pound at North Little Rock was full to the limit with stray cows and horses. Patrolman Willie Carr had personally impounded 15 cows and one bay horse.

■ A report by the State Food Administration showed that in 54 of the state's 75 counties, dogs outnumbered sheep and goats by a preponderance of 110,202 dogs. The report suggested a dog tax was in order.

■ A storekeeper at Cushman near Batesville learned that his shop was part of a fabulously lucrative manganese field when he hacked into a boulder of high grade ore while digging his cellar.

■ A classified ad appeared in the Gazette:

Traveling man and wife, no children, want 2, 3 or 4 room furnished apartment in location where speaking above a whisper or laughing is not an unpardonable sin. If lights and gas are on a separate meter, so much the better. Broken-down aristocrats need not answer.


On the afternoon of Oct. 27, two highly spifflicated gentlemen acted out a curious street scene in Little Rock. The Gazette reported that the stars' names, as near as could be ascertained, were Zhwarge and Zhoe.

A cat, Adolph, was cast in a nonspeaking part — thinking and balancing.

The scene was in the vicinage of Eighth and Main streets. The plot centered about whether Zhwarge should guide Zhoe's steps homeward or vice versa — the eternal biangle where men look too deeply into whatever represents the wine cup in a dry state.

The leading characters entered Main Street stage left from Eighth with affectionate half-nelsons about each other's necks. Adolph rode upon Zhoe's shoulder, claws gripped in his coat.

Zhoe: "Whaz may y' feet, Zhwarge. S'm like ain't nev' gon' gitchu 'ome."

Zhwarge: "Whaz mean gimme 'ome. 'M tak'n you 'ome m'se'f. Why'nt y' take tha' damcat off'n y' neck. Folks laf'n atchu."

They swung a wide tangent, during which Adolph transferred from Zhoe's shoulder to Zhwarge's head.

Zhoe noticed this transfer. He announced that the damcat was not on his shoulder but on Zhwarge's head, and the people were laughing at Zhwarge.

Ad lib. Ad Liquor.

The play had only a one-day run here, closing yesterday, but if the troupe has not disbanded it is probable that Zhwarge, Zhoe and Adolph could be induced to put on the act for a longer run — if somebody will provide the makings.

From context we know that the adjective "spifflicated" meant intoxicated. The everyday dictionaries I consulted do not have the word, and neither does the anonymous dictionary Google riffles any time I enter a search phrase that begins with "define." Instead, Google returns the meaning for the verb "spifflicate" — to treat roughly or destroy.

The online Drunktionary does have it, but that's too wanton a site to cite in a family newspaper.

Fortunately, unabridged dictionaries do have "spifflicated" as well as its trifling cousin "pifflicated." The Oxford English Dictionary taps O. Henry as the first writer to spifflicate a drunk.


Because the Spanish influenza pandemic was no joke, the state had been locked down (more and less) by a quarantine banning public funerals and excusing banks for closing early.

Also, manpower was in short supply, thanks to the Great War. New lines of work opened to women. The Thalheimer Brothers' pool hall at 321 Main St. advertised for "two negro girls" to rack pool balls — to be rackeresses, as the Gazette put it.

"Racking" comes under the head of the government's nonessential employments and men and boys no longer can be employed at this work. It is probable that other pool halls will be forced to do the same as soon as the quarantine is lifted and the halls are reopened.

The reporter sadly noted that a co-worker, "Bishop" Wright, would no longer feel able to cuss while playing pool.

Three days later, the Arkansas Democrat reported that "the porterette" phenomenon had appeared in town, employed by the Kress & Co. store, 612-616 Main St. She wore overalls. Her only concession to femininity was a lace cap. But the Kress manager assured the Democrat she was well suited to sweeping, and would look better than male employees on Monday mornings.

By Oct. 26, the commander lifted the quarantine at Camp Pike in North Little Rock, allowing visitors to come and go without passes. As a result, the hostess house and its rest rooms — not what we envision by that term, apparently — were overcrowded with wives, mothers and sweethearts.

Men who arrived without any firm plan of meeting an already acquired loved one were told to go outdoors. Football occurred.

And then, later than night, the weatherman stole a march on unsuspecting Sunday snoozers, many of them wrapped in thin sheets. How cold did it suddenly become? All of 46 degrees, but that was more than too cold for the Gazette reporter.

Sanguine victims, too cold and sleepy to search for the winter bed covers stored away, piled their overcoat or the rag rug on the bed.

The odor of camphor balls was much in evidence all day yesterday. Many usually immaculate dressers were seen on the streets wrapped up in slightly wrinkled overcoats, odorous of moth balls or cedar.

Adding to the aromatic residents' woe was the need to "correct" the strange and unwelcome daylight saving period back to standard time. An editorial in the Gazette warned readers to undertake this risky operation carefully.

Chas. S. Stifft, a jewelry shop at 310-312 Main St., advertised that its head watchmaker would be on duty from 10 a.m. until noon Sunday for the purpose of correctly setting all watches presented, at no charge.


Do not set your watches or clocks backward. They must be moved forward eleven hours — otherwise the delicate parts are liable to serious and costly repairs.

Citizens were especially vulnerable to mistakes before and during the approaching imposition of new mandates. The State Food Administration's administrator Hamp Williams had learned that certain hotels and restaurants were mistaking the government's new restrictions on sugar.

The rule stated that each patron could have one teaspoon of sugar per meal and three meals per day. That did not mean it was OK to serve three spoonfuls to one person during one meal. No, one teaspoonful must answer for cereal, fruits and coffee if the patron ordered all three at breakfast.

If the patron reached suppertime without eating the day's allotment of three teaspoonfuls, too bad.

"We are in the crisis of the war. We must save more food and labor than ever before in the history of the nation."

In North Little Rock, B. Livingstone and M.W. Linz, white men, demanded more than one teaspoon of sugar in their coffee Oct. 28 at Engleburger's Cafe, Fourth and Main streets. They caused such a ruckus they were arrested.

Sugar-crazed scofflaws! Stinky cold fronts! Dog tax! Those were parlous times.


Harry Scher, a jeweler on Markham Street, had 3,000 sample dolls Oct. 29, 1918, to unload — err, sell — before moving his business to 114 Main St on Nov. 5. A different ad in the same issue of the Arkansas Gazette touted his “removal sale.”

Style on 10/29/2018

Print Headline: Region dogged by odd news, flu

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