LOWGAP — Battle of the Books teams from Cedar Ridge Elementary and Franklin Elementary listened to author Joyce Hostetter’s presentation of her book “Blue” on Monday morning as an activity connecting the real world with fictional literature.
Assistant Principal Donna Bledsoe explained student Madelyn Edwards found out Hostetter lives in Hickory and sought out the help of Media Coordinator Robin Boulding, who set up the summer workshop. This is the fourth year of the competition for elementary schools.
“It shows how excited the children are that they were willing to do this on their summer break,” said Bledsoe, who also serves as the county coordinator for Battle of the Books (BOB). “I think our coaches are figuring out better ways to make the connection with books every year. This will help them not only reference the books but love them. It’s heartwarming to see kids get this excited about reading.”
Hostetter told the students how she was given the assignment “to write about something which happened in my backyard,” at a workshop. Her research led her to the “Miracle of Hickory,” which is the name for the area’s nine-month effort in 1944 against a polio epidemic.
She played a movie short from the time featuring British American actress Greer Garson, telling how a camp in Hickory had been converted to a hospital to treat polio, or infant paralysis as it was called then. Movie patrons then would be asked to donate money which was collected by theater ushers. These proceeds went to support research and needs for victims.
Hostetter explained how she took factual accounts from works including historic photographs, the non-fiction book “The Grit Behind The Miracle Of Hickory” and daily accounts from The Hickory Daily Record newspaper and used them in her fictional work.
“We writers take little details from our life and give them to characters,” said Hostetter. She told them how in two weeks the camp’s 55 beds filled up and the United States Army was tasked with bringing in tents. Volunteers as well as convict labor was later used to build 13 wards for patients. She gave details about conditions in the hospital and showed historic items including a type of diaper typically worn by polio victims. She also explained how an iron lung machine was used to help victims breathe.
Hostetter said the facility closed on March 5, 1945, with local volunteers using their own cars to transport the 82 remaining patients to Charlotte Memorial Hospital. She also shared poignant details from polio victims with the students.
“One of the things that happens when we are sick is that it changes us,” Hostetter said. “Sometimes it’s for the better.”
David Broyles may be reached at 336-415-4739 or on Twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.