Wednesday, June 29, 2011

29 June 1912: Swat the Fly!

On this day in 1912, the city-wide "anti-fly crusade" came to a close. The "hand to hand conflict with the fly" began at the East Athens Night School at the end of May, during a program on sanitation that included student essays on "the Fly, the Mosquito, and other insects which act cheerfully as living and moving vehicles for disease-germs."

In attendance at the program was Miss Mildred Rutherford, of the Lucy Cobb Institute. She offered the students cash prizes for whomever killed the most flies over the next week. The first day, students delivered 17,000 dead flies to their principal, Miss Louise Lane.  The Banner lauded the contest and covered it during the week, including dead fly totals and how the students had made their own fly swatters with "pieces of screen wire and stick handles." The winning student, Omer Williams, brought in a total of 32,000 dead flies by the contest's end on June 7th. 

The Banner called for more such contests,  and mentioned that Savannah and Augusta, among other cities, had already started such contests to help stop the spread of disease in their city. On June 12th, the Banner announced that a city-wide contest would begin on Monday, June 17th and last for 12 days. The contest was sponsored by the Civic Club of Athens and the Chamber of Commerce, with a cash prize of $5.00 for the largest number of flies delivered. 

Area children were encouraged to sign up at their closest fire station, and plan to bring in their flies every evening between 5pm and 6pm to have their killings counted. Area adults were encouraged to do what they could to rid the city of flies through cleaning up potential breeding places and installing screens on their doors and windows to keep flies out of the house.

Over the next twelve days, updates appeared in the local papers. The day before the end of the contest, the lead fly-killers for Athens were Wesley Newsome with 59,600 flies and Howard Eppes with 25,600 flies. It was also noted that Emily Palmer had, in just six days of killing flies, brought in 14,400 to her local fire department.

Alas, we do not know who was the ultimate winner of the contest, as the Athens Banner for this day did not survive. Wesley Newsome's total would have been hard to beat, however, and the city of Athens felt it was facing a healthier summer and fall.

(This Day in Athens would like to thank Connie Epps Bond for bringing this wonderful story to our attention!) 

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