No Place Like Home… TO GET HURT (Nov, 1935)

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No Place Like Home… TO GET HURT

YOU face 266 times the danger of injury while reading a book at home, walking down the cellar stairs, or thawing a frozen pipe, that your neighbor does when he embarks on the evening plane for a distant city.

Unbelievable? At the risk of boring you, I shall prove my statement with a few figures.

This year, if the nation’s experience of former years holds true, fully 5,184,500 of our 125,000,000 men, women, and children will suffer accidents—from falling out of chairs to slipping down icy stairs— in their homes. Of the 561,370 or more passengers riding in transport airplanes, for a total distance of 49,000,000 miles, not more than 357 will be involved in seventy-three accidents, and only eighty-eight will receive so much as a scratch.

One in twenty-four will be hurt at home, whereas only one in 6,378 will meet an accident on an airliner!

Suppose, however, your neighbor roars away from the neighborhood airport with a barnstorming pilot or a friend who flies for fun. Will he come home whole or in pieces? The surprising number of 1,397,-288 passengers flew 75,602,152 miles in private planes last year, and only 2,711 were involved in 1,549 accidents. Of these a mere handful—786—were hurt. Half this small total sustained bruises only. So, if you decide to try your wings with a friendly pilot in your town, you’ll be seventy-four times safer than at home.

Queer accidents, usually under circumstances that promise safety to the victims, strike down people everywhere. Serious at the moment, many of these strange incidents which, despite the intervention of science and education, increase in numbers every year, bring chuckles when viewed from the apparent safety of your own arm chair.

Let’s skim around the country for a close-up view of some of the oddest. In the Northwest a truck driver, arriving home after a dangerous day piloting his machine over streets deep in snow, tried to open a window swollen tight. When, after several efforts, the window flew up, the man fell off balance and dived three stories into a bank of snow. A housewife in Gary, Ind., slipped on a cake of soap while bathing, ricocheted through a window, and plunged three stories into a pile of sand, receiving only minor bruises to attest her unusual experience. Not to be outdone by this feat, Mrs. Evelyn Stewart lost her balance and fell five stories from the balcony of her New York apartment— only to land in snow piled high along the curb. Little Bobby Is-bel of Morrisville, N. Y., celebrating his third birthday by playing with a new knife, fell out of his chair. The three-inch blade penetrated his skull above one eye to the hilt, yet the youngster recovered.

While painting an elevator shaft, James Parnell, an aged Brooklyn, N. Y., workman, tumbled from a ladder, clutched a starting cable and was pinned between car and wall for nineteen hours before Charles Somerville “had a hunch” something was wrong inside the building and went to his rescue. A few days later, Arthur Thom-kin, a youth living in the same neighborhood, slid down a dumbwaiter rope to save walking down four flights of stairs. The rope parted and dropped him onto the basement floor; he broke both legs and fractured his skull. Possibly, he would have met a worse fate had he walked. One man, ascending a flight of iron stairs, fell when a step broke, and hanged himself from the skeletonlike superstructure.

Every week, miraculous hair-breadth escapes from death are recorded. A Kansas farmer was knocked out of his chair on his front porch when a speeding car flipped a rock against the side of his head. In Los Angeles, Calif., a youth lighted a cigarette while trying to take himself out of this world with gas, and the resulting explosion saved his life by blowing him out through a wall. An eleven-year-old boy, warned to avoid traffic with his bicycle, chose to ride the vehicle on the roof of an apartment house. He rode off the edge and landed in a police-station yard forty feet below, suffering only a bruised thumb.

Not all escape so luckily. Often, simple mistakes end in death. When basement water pipes froze on a cold winter night, a sixty-year-old retired builder, whose life had been spent constructing houses, applied a gasoline blowtorch to the problem. But the supposed water pipes led to his gas stove—and the resulting explosion ended his life.

You never know whose carelessness will endanger your household. One of forty-eight youngsters living in a Charlotte, N. C, home for children mischievously turned on the gas in the kitchen. A pet parrot, perched near the stove flew to the superin-tendent, screaming, “Come! Come!” The superintendent followed the bird back to the stove and shut off the escaping gas.

Dumb creatures are popularly supposed to give warning of threatened danger, but they do not always live up to this reputation. Eight trained chimpanzees were asphyxiated by coal gas when a chimney became clogged with soot, and only a two-hour siege by a Brooklyn, N. Y., inhalator squad saved them. A coffee pot boiled over and doused the flames of a gas stove in the apartment where a woman lived with six pet snakes. Both the mistress and reptiles were unconscious when neighbors broke in and carried them to safety.

Not infrequently, it is the rescuer who finds himself injured, while the person or animal in danger escapes. Mrs. Sarah Nelson leaped through the window of her third-story New-York apartment when an oil stove exploded, setting fire to the room. John Mobley, who happened to be passing, saw her as she flung herself into space, braced his body, and broke her fall. The impact sprained his back, while she was able to walk away without help.

From eleven in the morning until nine at night, a cat mewed mournfully from a tree in Brooklyn, N. Y. As the hour of curfew rang, Walter Fournays, a chauffeur, climbed the tree, took the kitten under his arm and prepared to bring it down to safety. A small branch broke under Fournay’s weight and he fell fifteen feet, fracturing his skull on the sidewalk. The cat landed safely.

A Chicago policeman, answering a call from frantic mothers, shot himself in the leg while trying to bring down a stray dog which had been snapping at children. Undaunted by the self-inflicted wound, he killed the animal with the second shot.

Of course, not all the odd accidents happen at or near home. With the suddenness of thunder, they occur unexpectedly anywhere. Too, many result from carefully laid plans to avoid injury while performing a dangerous job or hasty attempts to escape from impending tragedy.

Two-hundred-pound William Philupe, New York baker, turned out the fire under one of his bake ovens one Friday night. On Monday morning, thinking it had cooled sufficiently for him to enter to repair a faulty grate, he crawled into the narrow brick-lined fire box only to discover that heat from an adjoining compartment had shot the temperature up to 350 degrees.

In an effort to back out quickly, the baker became tightly wedged. Unable to pull Philupe out, his employer called police, whose rescue squad demolished the steel door and brick masonry by means of acetylene torches and iron bars. Thirty minutes later, suffering first-degree burns, the victim was lifted from the oven.

Sailors on the French destroyer Ouragan fired several practice torpedoes which raced through the Atlantic true to their marks and exploded. They then slipped into a tube a new torpedo to test its range. The projectile leaped into the sea, swiftly turned in a circle, crashed into the ship near the stern. Had the defective gyroscope which governed its direction been placed in one of those containing high explosives, the Ouragan today would be rusting on the bottom of the ocean. Scott Kline, manager of an electric company at Wilkes-Barre, Pa., faced imminent electrocution for thirty minutes not long ago under bizarre circumstances. He was replacing a safety fuse governing a powerful current when a bushing cracked, loosing a 13,000-volt current which set up a powerful magnetic field.

Kline fell to the floor and, unable to move, suffered a series of shocks. He was a prisoner of electrically induced magnetism a full half hour, until a helper arrived and turned off the current. Yet he received no burns.

After facing death while washing a window on the sixteenth floor of a skyscraper, Michael Karp fractured his ankle during a self-rescue. Karp had finished cleaning the window and unfastened one end of his safety belt, when he slipped off the narrow ledge. In his frantic efforts to crawl back up to safety he cracked his ankle.

Explosions, from toy gas balloons to tons of powder, bring injury to many under strange circumstances and in odd places. A large crowd at Hamilton Fish Park, New York, gathered to hear a speech by Mayor LaGuardia, was thrown into a near panic when two dozen gas-filled balloons, carried by Morris Berebaum, exploded and burned five people, including two babies. How they were set off no one knows, unless by a lighted cigarette, touched accidentally or purposely to one of the spheres. But to get back to the home—at Bordeaux, France, an entire family was engaged in a mouse hunt when the mother shoved a hot poker back of the kitchen sink hoping to force a mouse out into the open. The hot metal touched a quantity of explosives stored there by her husband. The blast blew out one side of the kitchen and injured all six in the family.

In Tennessee, a home accident not only resulted in the house burning to the ground, but also touched off twenty cases of dynamite and 250 kegs of blasting powder stored next door, which destroyed fifty homes and buildings. Isadore Overman, New York junk dealer, tossed one of a shipment of old shells in a fire to determine whether they were loaded. His question was answered when a large piece of metal embedded itself in his thigh. Flying chips broke windows in houses as far distant as three blocks.

Where are you safest—rocking in your favorite chair, sitting at your work desk, in a theater, wading in shallow ocean surf, or standing in front of a bank window depositing your weekly pay check? The answer is, you cannot be sure, no matter where you may be, that chance will not reach out to inflict injury in greater or lesser degree.

One mishap led to the discovery of an earlier one. Mrs. Josephine Illman, of Milwaukee, Wise, accustomed to sewing for many years, plunged a needle into her thumb. She was rushed to a hospital for X-ray photographs. The pictures not only revealed that needle, but also showed embedded in her hand a smaller one which she remembered “losing” long ago.

Several workers in a New York dressmaking establishment suddenly slumped in their seats. Investigation revealed that fumes containing a poisonous gas were blowing in through open windows from a freshly painted roof next door. They were asphyxiated by an out-of-doors painting job, an almost unheard-of accident.

HUNDREDS became panic-stricken in a theater at Bogota, Colombia, when some one shouted, “Fire!” Several fell from the balcony on those below; one was killed, a score were injured. Some practical joker had shouted the alarm. There was no fire.

Frank Coltrin, of San Jose, Calif., went fishing in a mild surf near San Francisco’s Golden Gate. While standing in water hip-deep, an octopus seized him, wrapping long tentacles around both legs and one arm. His companion, Harry Simmons, went to his aid armed with a butcher knife. As quickly as he severed one tentacle, another seized his friend. Only when Simmons plunged the knife between the octopus’s eyes did the creature loose its hold. Rings left by the powerful suction cups were found on several parts of Coltrin’s body.

Although less danger attended the incident, directors, clerks, and customers in an eastern bank suffered considerable discomfort the other day when the building became flooded with tear gas, intended only for bandits. An electrical short circuit set off the gas sprinkling system, and the gas drove scores from the building. A few minutes later, business was resumed as usual.

Birds and animals play leading roles in many accidents, some as the moving cause, others as innocent victims. A wild pheasant weighing only six pounds knocked out Frank Pearl, engineer of a crack train roaring at seventy miles an hour through New Jersey the other day. The bird flew head-on through the narrow glass windshield which protected the engineer against wind and cinders, striking him in the forehead. Pearl slumped unconscious in his seat, but safety devices stopped the train. The train proceeded after the engineer was revived.

HARRY BALL had a similar experience on a country road near Loverna, Saskatchewan, when a rabbit leaped through the windshield of his coupe and disappeared through the rear window. Ball was severely lacerated by flying glass, and the rabbit paid the supreme penalty for its carelessness. A Hingham, Mass., family was less fortunate. One of a flock of geese walking along the road flew into the windshield and dropped dead in the car. Five of the passengers were painfully lacerated by flying glass.

When bulls and box cars mix, the results usually are somewhat more sensational. The engineer of a freight train rumbling through Georgia saw a large bull standing unconcernedly alongside the train. When the engine approached within a few feet of the animal, it stepped onto the ties. Result: locomotive and nine cars plunged into a muddy ditch, engineer and fireman killed, nine box cars demolished.

Where the next accident, of water, fire, force, or fumes, will occur none can say. Despite many efforts at safety education, the death toll increased nearly one tenth last year, when 101,000 people succumbed from mishaps of all kinds in the United States.

NO MATTER where you may seek thrills —in the air, on land, or at sea—home continues to be the most dangerous place in the world. Of the 9,821,000 disabling injuries from all causes last year, more than half happened at home.

Too, these accidents increase every year. Here are a few startling facts: Rhode Island is the only state that did not suffer an increase in fatal accidents last year. Wage loss, medical expense, and insurance cost the injured $2,400,000,000 and property damage, including buildings razed by fires accidentally started, reached the staggering total of $3,500,-000,000. No disease kills as many children as accidents. One person in five may reasonably expect to be injured during the next twenty-five years.

Finally, more than twice as many people will meet accidental death at home this year as will succumb from accidents of all kinds while at work. Of these, falls and burns are the most important causes. Nearly half of the falls occur in bedrooms, more than half of the burns in kitchens. Recent studies by the Kansas Department of Health show that more people die from slipping on floors, rugs, and stairs, falling while getting in or out of bed, or while sitting down in or getting up from a chair than from all other home causes.

For safety, you must take to the bath room, which the Kansas authorities found to be the safest room in the house, with only one fatal injury in twenty there, or to the air. Statistics recommend airplanes rather than bath rooms.

  1. Thundercat says: January 11, 200810:13 am

    Wow, if not for reading this article I never would have known that riding my bike off of the roof was dangerous!

  2. Stannous says: January 11, 200811:53 am

    And if the figures don’t prove my point I’ll just make up a few facts.

  3. Orv says: January 11, 20081:00 pm

    The story about the engineer who caught a pheasant in the face reminded me of something that happened to me last year. I was driving on the freeway when a pigeon swooped down off of an overpass girder and collided with my car’s side mirror, breaking it off. I guess I was lucky I had the window closed! 😉

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