Elizabeth Butler

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Elizabeth Butler (Sickle)

Graduation Year




Interview Date


D. Butler

Call Number

RE1 UOG A1340175


Elizabeth Butler interview


Dan Butler (00:00):
This is an interview with Beth Butler, Mat 62, recorded by her husband, Dr. Danny Butler, OBC 63, for their family. Beth has kindly agreed to allow it to be added to the Alumni in Action oral history web page. This is Beth's story.

Elizabeth Butler (00:28):
This is my story up to October 14, 2011. I was born on August 20th, 1939. My parents were George and Isabelle Sickle. My mother was ... her maiden name was Sharp. And I grew up on a mixed farm on the Glen Morris Road in Brant County. Life went on as any normal child's life would go until the year I turned 13. Before my 13th birthday, I'd finished public school and I had been in a Beef-Calf Club, and training a calf to show at the Paris Fair.

Elizabeth Butler (01:28):
After school finished, I was picking strawberries, and then I had, had to do the chores one night when my father and brother were busy doing the haying. And while I was doing the chores, I wasn't feeling very good, and my mother came down to the barn to see how I was getting along, and, and I told her I didn't feel well. And so she helped me finish the chores.

Elizabeth Butler (01:58):
The next morning, she took me to see the doctor, and when I came home, I ... he told me to go to bed. I walked up the stairs to the bedroom, and that ... I never walked after that for a few months. The doctor came several days later and did a spinal tap and diagnosed poliomyelitis. So I ended having to go to the hos-, Hamilton General Hospital, and my parents took me to the hospital, put me on an ironing, a flat ironing board, in the back seat of the car, which was an interesting trip.

Elizabeth Butler (02:45):
First of all, I was put in an isolation ward for a week, and that was not a very pleasant place.

Dan Butler (02:55):
Were you in a lot of pain?

Elizabeth Butler (02:59):
I wasn't in a lot of pain, but-

Dan Butler (03:02):
What about the headaches?

Elizabeth Butler (03:04):
I don't remember about the headaches. I don't remember a lot about how I felt when I was in there. The thing I remembered was the door to my room being closed quite often, and I realized they were transporting dead bodies out of the, of the ward. After a week in the isolation unit, I was put over in the polio ward, which was a ward that was devoted solely to polio patients. And it was full, a full ward. It was a bad summer in 1952, and the first ... it was so hot. It was July, and I remember just sucking ice cubes, one after another to keep cool.

Elizabeth Butler (04:01):
And part of my treatment was to have ice pack, um, hot packs put on me. So my arms, legs, thighs, bo-, torso were wrapped in wool cloths and wet, steamed wool cloths, and then plastic and, and wool over top of that to keep the heat in. And they would do this several times in the morning, and it was not a very pleasant experience. In the afternoons, I had physiotherapy to try to loosen my muscles which had tightened up. That was painful, because they ... I couldn't sit up, and they would try and lift me, and that would hurt. And my legs didn't move. They were stiff and my arms, so it was not very comfortable going for these physiotherapy treatments. I had them, I think it was every other day, three days a week. Um.

Elizabeth Butler (05:29):

Dan Butler (05:34):
Did your mom and dad visit with you?

Elizabeth Butler (05:35):
My mother and dad came on Sundays to visit, and sometimes my mother would come on Wednesdays to visit me. But other than that, I really didn't have many visitors. I did have a teacher who had left the ... I had had her in school until that summer, and she had moved to Hamilton, and uh, so she came in and taught me some of my courses that I needed, although it wasn't a complete class that I had.

Elizabeth Butler (06:21):
I made friends in the ward, and once ... it was Christmas time before I was able to sit up well enough that I ... they let me go home over Christmas. And then I was back at the hospital again. And, and then by Easter, I was able to ... I had been working on walking with crutches and trying stairs, and so I was able to go home at Easter time, and go up the stairs at home. And then at the end of May, they released me from the hospital, but I had to go back every week for physiotherapy for quite a few months. And I, I was sent home with a long leg brace on one leg and a short leg brace on the other leg, and instead of polio crutches.

Elizabeth Butler (07:31):
So when I got home and a new school year was starting, the, the inspector for our county said I could go on into high school. And so I, I did my high school at St. George continuation school, and then I went on to Galt Collegiate in Galt to finish grade 13. I applied to the Univer-, to Macdonald Institute in Guelph for a four-year program, and I was accepted there.

Elizabeth Butler (08:16):
I managed to get back and forth to classes. I always had one classmate, not always the same classmate, but classmates would carry my books for me and I was able to get from one side of the campus to the other, and up and down the stairs.

Dan Butler (08:36):
How did you make out in the winter time?

Elizabeth Butler (08:37):
I, in the winter time, I traveled a little slower. I sometimes maybe got to classes a little later, although the sidewalks were heated and it wasn't, didn't seem to be too much of a problem. Um, at the end of my first year, um, the, um, principal of Macdonald Institute asked me if ... she said that, um, the Guelph alumni group wanted to get a wheelchair for me, and I declined that because I felt it would make me feel different, and I was able to get back and forth to classes okay without a wheelchair.

Elizabeth Butler (09:30):
And she also contacted the Ontario March of Dimes who agreed to pay for my room and board for the next three years of university, which was a real boon to my parents, who really didn't, couldn't afford the university costs that much. Anyway, while I was at university in my second year, we had a Susie Q week. And the girls had to invite boys, take them out for coffee or something. And so a classmate of mine had called up a fellow, and he wasn't there, but he gave, said his name was Danny Butler, and would she like to take him out?

Elizabeth Butler (10:30):
Anyway, she came back and said, you should give him a call, because he sounds really nice. So I called him, and I invited him out for coffee the next night. We, I had no clue as to who I was meeting, and I, uh, agreed to meet him in front of his residence. So I went over there, and I discovered him, and we went to the lounge for coffee. And things progressed from there, although I gave him a hard time.

Dan Butler (11:14):
How was that?

Elizabeth Butler (11:17):
Every time he asked me out, I was going home, so it was ... because my father had fallen off the barn roof, and I needed to go home and see him. But it turned out that summer I was to have some surgery on my ankle, and um ... in Hamilton. And Danny was, his parents lived in Hamilton, and he was going to be working in Hamilton in the summer. And the doctor who was doing the surgery, going to do the surgery on my ankle approached the dietician at the hospital and got a job for me, working in the dietary office. So I lived in Hamilton for the summer, and Danny and I went out many nights during that summer.

Elizabeth Butler (12:22):
Then we were back at university, and then third year, he gave me his class pin to wear. And then just before graduation, we became engaged and were married in October 12th of 1963 just after he had graduated.

Dan Butler (12:49):
Now you skipped over a bunch of the surgery that you had while you, during your rehabilitation in Hamilton.

Elizabeth Butler (12:57):
Yes, when I was in grade 11, I had surgery on my back, and I spent from October ... I had a spinal fusion done on my back to correct a curvature of the spine. And so I spent from October until May in a body cast. We had a hospital bed set up in the living room at home, and my mother having been a nurse, took care of me. And I did schoolwork while I was lying in bed. So at the end of that year, they let me go on to grade 12 to finish my high school.

Dan Butler (13:53):
So what was the point of the surgery on your ankle?

Elizabeth Butler (13:56):
The surgery on my ankle was done to ... I didn't have the muscle in my right leg, right foot, right ankle, to hold my foot up. It dropped on me, so I had the ankle fused so that it wouldn't drop. But I had two surgeries: the one while I was in the body cast, and then the first surgery on my ankle didn't work as well as the doctor wanted, so I had the second surgery in my ... between second and third year of university.

Elizabeth Butler (14:47):
And then on October 12th, 1963, we were married, and I moved to Barrie where Danny had taken a job in a veterinary practice up there. And the next year, we had our first child. Kevin was born, and over the next several years we had three more children, Ron, Karen, and Phil. And we've had many exciting times, interesting times, and a Bible verse that has been important to me is Romans 8:28, "For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Because a lot of things in life have, have worked out well despite the circumstances.

Dan Butler (16:03):
So where's your family at now?

Elizabeth Butler (16:08):
We have four children, eight grandchildren, and are enjoying our grandchildren in all their activities.

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