Polio was a greatly feared, five letter word that swiftly shattered the quiet community of Hickory, in June of 1944. Within days of the Hickory Daily Record reporting the first case of polio on June 7, that one case rapidly turned into an epidemic. Charlotte Memorial Hospital was forced to shut its doors to new polio patients, and all families could do was wait for a miracle.
Bravely, the community of Hickory and the surrounding Catawba County communities, joined together, and in an astonishing 54 hours, completed construction on the Hickory Emergency Infantile Paralysis Hospital. This outpouring of community service and the phenomenal opening of a specialized hospital in less than 3 days, led to the “The Miracle of Hickory.”
“The Miracle of Hickory: The 1944 Emergency Polio Hospital.” Highlights of the exhibit include an infant's Iron Lung purchased by a Catawba County family used during the polio outbreak; a series of leg braces from Mrs. Bandy Setzer of Hickory, used by her from infancy to adulthood; and many items used by community to make the hospital succesful in its fight to stop Polio.
In 2002, Hickory author Joyce Moyer Hostetter needed a local history story for a writing class. She contacted the Catawba County Museum of History and learned about ‘The Miracle of Hickory’. She read books and newspaper articles, looked at photographs, interviewed former patients, visited Warm Springs, Georgia, and more, to help her learn about the 1940s and the Miracle of Hickory. All of her research culminated in the book Blue and its sequel Comfort. Blue has won numerous awards, including the IRA Children’s Book Award, the NC Juvenile Literature Award, and the Parents’ Choice Silver Award. It has been incorporated into school curriculums and is read by children (and adults) all over the country.
This exhibit blends the story of the Miracle, as told through the eyes of Ann Fay Honeycutt, the young heroine from Blue, with real photographs taken at the emergency hospital by Hickory Daily Record photographer Wake Bridges and LIFE Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.