When I was 8 or 9 years old, every time we drove past a particular house just outside Humboldt, Mom ordered the car’s windows rolled up. A kid who lived there had polio and she feared the virus might be airborne.
In the 1950s polio was scary, because it mostly gripped children and in severe cases led to having to spend time — often weeks or months — in an iron lung. Hospital wards were filled with polio victims at the height of outbreaks in the 1940s and 1950s.
The iron lungs helped a person breathe when muscle control had been lost or the process of breathing was too much for the patient’s physical ability.