Pine program attracts crowd to celebrate Salk
Former Pine resident Saundra “Saundy” Pond well remembers the day Dr. Jonas Salk injected his own family with the first test doses of his vaccine to vanquish polio.
It was 1953.
“I happened to be in their home,” said the former Saundy Dize, then age 9 and a playmate of Salk's three sons.
Despite her best efforts, Pond also got a polio shot that day.
“I started running away. I ran up the steps,” she said. “He ran after me.”
Pond shared her memories Aug. 3 at Pine Community Center after a program — sponsored by the Friends of Pine Community Park — to celebrate Salk's contribution to medicine, and his ties to Pine Township.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Salk's birth on Oct. 28, 1914, in New York City.
Pond, now 71 and of Weeki Wachee, Fla., grew up in a house behind Salk's former home on Route 19 in Pine, now the site of a Burger King.
Salk became a national hero when his polio vaccine — developed at the University of Pittsburgh — gained approval for general use in 1955.
People then lined up by the thousands to get the vaccine after a U.S. epidemic of the paralyzing virus in the early 1950s.
“He was a humble man. He was kind and generous,” Pond said about Salk.
“He'd come home very late at night,” Pond told more than 160 people who attended the tribute. “He would come into our cellar and stoke the fire in our furnace. If it needed more coal, he added more. He just loved doing for others.”
Other speakers included Dr. Peter Salk, 70, of La Jolla, Calif., the oldest of the late Jonas and Donna Salk's three sons, who all became physicians.
“This is coming back home. This is where my heart is,” Peter Salk told the crowd. “To have all of you come together — it's wonderful to see.” Other guests included Jody Zogran, 84, of Sterling, Va., a nurse who cared for Pittsburgh polio patients in the early 1950s, and Nancy Kisner Bartley, 79, of Dayton, Ohio, who grew up in Pine Park when it was a farm where Salk drew blood from animals for his polio research.
A trailer from “The Shot Felt ‘Round the World,'” a documentary on Salk, opened the program.
Peter Salk, who lived in Pine from 1947 to 1953, also remembers feeling his father's needles and getting polio shots.
“I remember when we got our first injections in the kitchen,” Peter Salk said. “I didn't know my dad gave them to other kids in the neighborhood.”
Peter Salk also remembers visiting his uncle Herman Salk, and his aunt Sylvia Salk — both veterinarians — when the couple raised mice for medical research on a Dean Road farm in Pine.
The late Pittsburgh attorney Ben Paul Brasley, who died in 1981, owned the Dean Road farm, plus a nearby farm on the Bakerstown Warrendale Road, where Brasley lived and Jonas Salk drew blood from farm animals for research. Together, the farms were known as Shalom Research Farms.
In 1992, Pine Township purchased 108 acres of Shalom Research Farms from the Hebrew Institute for $825,000 to create Pine Community Park.
“I didn't know anything about the farm,” Joe Randig, 67, of Butler said after the Aug. 3 program.
As a child, Randig caught polio. He still walks with braces and has photos of himself with Salk at the former D.T. Watson Home for Crippled Children in Leet Township.
“He was very mild-mannered and soft-spoken,” Randig said about Jonas Salk.
Peter Salk said his father left the University of Pittsburgh after a falling out with former Pitt Chancellor Edward Litchfield over Salk's wish to establish an institute for experimental medicine at Pitt.
“My father and Litchfield didn't see eye to eye,” Peter Salk said. “My father headed to California and established the Salk Institute.”
A driving tour of the former Shalom Research Farms wrapped up the program, including stops at the former site of Brasley's farmhouse and barns at the park, plus, Herman and Sylvia Falk's mouse house, which still stands on Dean Road property owned by Theresa Murrin of Pine.
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.