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Square Needles9839 Reads  Printer-friendly page

ArmyI had the pleasure of being assigned to Ft Lewis from 3/67 to 6/68. During that time I worked at the post dispensory and occasionally had the bad luck of being assigned to the dreaded "shot line".
Ft Lewis at that time was quite a large basic training center, as many of you will well remember. A characteristic of basic training was the days where all of the troops would be marched off to the shot-clinic for the innoculations that were given to one and all free of charge. (here would be a good place to comment on the fact that I was a little hurt that no one ever said "thanks").

What we would do is to set up a hallway that the troops would walk down getting various injections as they passed each station. Some of the injections were delivered with needles and others were given with the air-guns. The guns used compressed gas to force the injectate through the pores of the skin supposedly without breaking the skin or damaging the muscle tissue, supposedly. The system worked well providing that the person held still and didn't tense up. Usually the needles stations and the gun stations were spread out along the line and the final step was to take a sugar cube of the polio vaccine prior to leaving the building.

We hated it because all day long you did the same thing and said the same thing over and over and over and over again. "Don't tense up" "Hold still" "Don't pull away" and finally "Take a sugar cube and wait outside for the rest of your troop". Then to make matters worse there was always one guy from Chicago or New York who had to tell you about the time that the needle broke off in their arm and they almost died. The only thing worse than working the shot line was going through the shot line.

Well...one day this guy came through who had no business being more than a block away from the safety of his own home, he just wasn't getting it. Every time that someone would hit him with a needle or a gun he couldn't hold still or not tense up. Hence his arms were a bloody mess. I was working the final station with an air-gun and giving the directions to "Take a sugar cube and wait outside". During the resulting struggle to get him to relax and hold still he got cut pretty bad. Shortly after this guy left he reappeared at the back door with a plaintive lost-look on his face and a bloody sugar cube in his hand. He held the sugar cube up to one of his holes in his arm that had been caused by the air-guns and told me "it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit".

Memories associated with square needles..
Note: By Jim Calbreath


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