DEVOTIONAL GUIDE: Polio plus persistence ends in football glory

Glenn Anderson's polio story runs from the embarrassment of being pantsed by bullies to seeing his name engraved on an athletic trophy.

Rev. Steve Norby

Hebrews 12 says, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Glenn Anderson’s polio story inspires us to never give up!

Erling and I both lived six miles southwest of Ada, about a mile apart. We attended Echo Country School in McDonald Township.

In 1944, the school was closed and we were transferred to the Ada Public School. The school bus would turn around in our driveway, since we lived at the end of the line. The driver would wait until my sister and I would run to catch the bus before it turned around and headed down the road.

As a fourth grader, I was just getting started going to town and didn’t want to miss a day, lest I get behind. On this day, the bus turned around and was slowly heading down the road. I remember running across the yard to catch the bus. I made it across the yard and had to climb up the ditch, but my legs gave way and I fell flat on my face. The bus did wait for me as I stumbled toward the door.

Mother was watching out the window and noticed my falling and stumbling was not normal. We visited the doctor’s office, and he believed that the symptoms required further tests.


I was taken to the hospital in Crookston, and the first thing they did was a spinal tap, to examine the spinal fluid for whatever it might show. When the report came back, it was confirmed: polio.

It was a devastating diagnosis. Infantile paralysis was feared. Dr. Sauk’s vaccine was not administered until April 12, 1955.

The treatments seemed to arrest its development. Over time, some strength came back in my legs, but one leg was shorter than the other. I was uncoordinated and rather weak in comparison to my peers.

The school bullies took advantage. They’d call me names like fairy, weakling, etc. One time, a couple of them held me down and pulled my pants off, to my embarrassment. It was then that my friend, Erling, would come to my defense and drive them off. I could always depend on Fitz (Erling’s nickname) to come to my assistance.

I made a name for myself in other activities: singing in choir, a quartet, placing in district music contests, as well as participating in class dramas. I tried out for basketball, but wasn’t coordinated or strong enough to place. So, in 1952, when I made the football team in my junior year, it was a turning point. That’s when Erling released me to my own resilience.

In my senior year, the Ada Vikings won the district championship in football, and my name was embossed on the trophy as left end for the team.

We have been dealing with COVID-19 for about six months. Glenn had to face polio from 1944 until he graduated in 1953. May the resilience of those who fought that epidemic be an inspiration for us to never give up doing good!

Rev. Steve Norby serves as lead pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church in Park Rapids.

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