What’s the connection? Perhaps some astute reader will figure it out and comment.
The tonsillectomy epidemic also fell on my own family according to generation. My father, born in Norway just after the turn of the century, escaped the procedure entirely, as did most of his generation. I was not so lucky. In the late 1930’s my family lived in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and at the age of five I underwent my first tonsillectomy in the local hospital. I was one of the lucky ones to have my operation in the hospital. Many of my friends in those Depression-era years were not so fortunate. Their parents could not afford the hospital, so they had their operations in the school gymnasium during “tonsillectomy day” – a mass surgery event held periodically to ensure that everyone in Bellows Falls who needed an operation received an operation. Although precise statistics are not available, this apparently meant every child in town.
Indeed it’s hard to find “precise statistics”. Indeed it’s hard to to find anything at all documenting the fact – and it is a fact – that mass tonsillectomy days were held in school gymnasiums all over the northeast United States for several decades – roughly the 1930’s to the 1950’s. Performed on children who were completely healthy and experiencing no symptoms of disease in their tonsils or anywhere else.
Was this a grotesque form of child abuse? Sure. Is that what people thought at the time? Of course not.