Don Strobel

Don Strobel said, “About three weeks ago, I listened to some young people complaining about not being able to go out to eat .... I wanted to tell them, ‘Try being quarantined without your cellphone and TV.’”

While people are practicing social distancing due to COVID-19 concerns, Don Strobel remembers a time 73 years ago when he and his parents (Harry and Evelyn Strobel) were quarantined and couldn’t leave their house for eight weeks.

“I was in fourth grade in 1947, and my dad was diagnosed with smallpox,” reveals the 1956 Batesville High School graduate. “My dad worked for the telephone company and had been in Rochester to restore telephone service. We suspect that’s where he came in contact with smallpox, since, to my knowledge, no one else in Batesville had it.”

“Life was a lot different then .... We didn’t have the health privacy act back then, so it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on with our family when there were quarantine signs on the front and back of the house.”

“The mailman put the mail in the mailbox, and we couldn’t get it until he was gone. My teacher would send homework home for me, but we couldn’t send anything back. Nothing could leave the house. My parents couldn’t pay their bills, and there were no credit cards. I suspect a lot of the local businesses knew what was happening and knew my parents would pay their bills when they could, or maybe some relatives helped pay them,” figures the 82-year-old.

“We only had a landline phone, so my mother would call my grandparents and tell them what groceries we needed. They would put them on the front porch.”

“Back in those days, I would have been outside playing games with my friends, such as kick the can and hide-and-seek.” However, that wasn’t possible for Strobel during those two months in the late 1940s.

“I’ve always been a reader, so as I recall, relatives would drop off magazines and newspapers for me to read. We also played cards, checkers and dominoes. For the first two to three weeks, my dad was too sick to do anything, and my mom took care of him. Later Dad joined in when he was feeling better.”

The father of four sons and grandfather of 13 knows it’s difficult during the COVID-19 menace, but today “you can go outside and walk around your neighborhoods. We were confined to our house. Dr. (Lloyd) Hisrich came in about once a week. That was our only contact with the outside world besides phone calls.”

During these times of social distancing, Strobel and his wife, Marie, have kept themselves busy at their Franklin home. “We walk around our neighborhood and say hi to our neighbors. We do a lot of reading, and I have been catching up on emails.” He has also cleaned the garage and shampooed the carpets. “We watch TV in the evenings, and my wife and I play a board game every day.”

“I do feel bad for those who are out of work,” he admits. “My parents were out of work for eight weeks, but I don’t have sympathy for those who are whining because they can’t go out to dinner or to a movie or can’t party with their friends.”

Strobel believes individuals will always recall what they were doing in 2020, just like “you remember where you were when the space shuttle blew up or when 9/11 occurred.”

Diane Raver can be contacted at or 812-651-0873.

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