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FAQ City: The Miracle Of Hickory

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NC Department of Cultural Resources

How do you respond to tragedies? We all face them periodically over the course of our lives. Sometimes there's little we can do to remedy the situation. Other times, we're given the opportunity to fight back.

This week on the FAQ City podcast, we examine the story of how one small North Carolina town faced the threat of a polio epidemic in the 1940s, and turned the moment into a story of small town solidarity.

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Austin Drake

"The Miracle of Hickory," as the story is known, is familiar to many older residents of Catawba County, but some members of the younger generation have just gotten around to discovering it.

That includes Austin Drake, who grew up in Hickory, but just stumbled across the story while Googling his hometown.

"I thought it was so strange that I had grown up there, and had never heard of this seemingly big, historical event that happened in Hickory," he said, "So I was curious about it."

Prompted by his question, we sit down with local historian Richard Eller, who fills us in on the story and explains why it remains significant today.

To learn more about the "Miracle of Hickory," check out the documentary produced by Eller, titled "Miracle: How a North Carolina County Named Catawba Battled Polio and Won," or read up on the tale in the book, "Polio, Pitchforks, and Perserverance."

While the polio hospital no longer stands on the outskirts of Hickory, you can still check out some of the old artifacts at the Hickory History Center, and there's a stone monument in downtown Hickory that commemorates the story.

The story also lives on in a book of historical fiction written by local author Joyce Hostetter. The novel is titled, "Blue," and is part of the fifth grade curriculum in Catawba County Schools.

Do you have a question about Charlotte, Hickory, or any of the other surrounding areas? Write us! Send in your question in the box below, and we may be in touch.

While you're at it, make sure to subscribe and rate/review the podcast on Apple PodcastsNPR One, and Google Play.

This story originally aired in May, 2019.

Music in this episode is provided by Blue Dot Sessions.

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