A Silent Killer Came to Our House

Without warning, that which came into the Appalachian Mountains referred to as the Silent Killer or the White Plague, would leave our family without a father and even worse, a provider. Such was the case in that year 1943 when our Dad Clarence Carroll, would be diagnosed with the dreaded Tuberculosis (TB) disease that would take away the family breadwinner for nine years. Daddy was at age thirty-one at the time and was employed by the Catawba Sanatorium as assistant store manager since the late 1930s’. The irony is not lost on the fact, that Daddy would still be going to the Sanatorium, not as an employed store-keeper but as a patient “on the cure” to reside there, indefinitely.

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Clarence Carroll, Elizabeth Carroll Nancy Carroll Camper, Jeanie Carroll Thompson, Barbara Carroll Shelor, Clarence (Ted) Carroll

Our mother, Elizabeth Garman Carroll was twenty-eight when Daddy departed and had four children to care for; Jeanie, Teddy, Barbara and Nancy all age nine and younger. Jeanie was the baby at eighteen months. I cannot remember the specifics of that day when he left although I knew something was wrong in the Carroll household. Sister Barbara, age five at the time well remembers the day he left us. She said “Mama was ironing Daddy’s pajamas on an ironing board by the side of the bed. Jeanie, just a baby at the time was lying on the bed. As she continued ironing, Mama was crying, and we did not know what was wrong”. Looking back, it was obvious she was packing Daddy’s clothes for his stay at the Sanatorium, which would be measured in years.

Our situation, by any reckoning, was not a good one. First and foremost, Daddy’s battle with TB was one of a very long process, and there were no guarantees of his survival and return to his family. Secondly, we as a family, with a mother in her late twenties who had four children to feed, clothe and raise. We had just moved into a newly built house on one acre of land beside the Catawba School. We had a roof over our head, but that came with a monthly mortgage. We had no vehicle, nor anyone licensed to drive one. It was a dire situation even by Appalachia standards. The Catawba Sanatorium built in 1909 was the first built TB sanatorium in Virginia. This facility was specifically for TB patients and was within walking distance of our home.

Daddy’s only hope-The Catawba Sanatorium

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