E. Dennis Horton and Margaret Sturgill

Recorded April 27, 2011 Archived April 27, 2011 39:29 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX007997


Margaret Sturgill interviews her friend and coworker Dennis Horton (60) about his childhood diagnosis of polio and how it changed his life.

Subject Log / Time Code

DH remembers being diagnosed with polio by a country doctor.
DH talks about life with a disability and how he can judge a person by their reaction to him. He describes going out to eat with his family and having the waitress ask his wife for his order.
DH is the deputy director of Mountain Empire.
DH talks about his parents, who had a very pragmatic attitude. He remembers his father’s new tractor. He wanted to drive it and his father said, if you can climb onto it, ride away. He drove it through the field.
He remembers living at a rehab center in Warm Springs, GA with 300 other children from all over the country. He was 9 years old and he and another boy would have wheelchair races in the hallways.


  • E. Dennis Horton
  • Margaret Sturgill

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type



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00:04 This is Margaret Sturgill, and I'm here with my friend, Dennis Horton.

00:12 And it's April 27th, 2011. We're here in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.

00:18 And I'm Dennis Worden them 60 years old and its April 27th 2011 in Big Stone Gap Virginia and relationship to the interviewer his coworker.

00:33 And friend

00:36 Good for you.

00:39 And this conversation Dennis Ave. We worked together for 30 some-odd years. And what I would like to ask about is you were diagnosed with polio at the young age of 7. What year was that?

00:59 In September 1st

01:02 What is your earliest memory of the medical treatment you received for the diagnosis of polio what was going on? And then I got the diagnosis there at the and the office of them.

01:22 Old old country doctor and was immediately sent to hospital.

01:30 8 ways

01:32 And was a treatment back then to keep you immobile to keep you.

01:43 Initial contagion. Which was more like having now a week-long case of the flu.

01:51 Grandpa temperature and

01:56 Primarily just aches and chills. So once that traded that then the the treatment was primarily in.

02:07 Heat treatment for the warm blankets in their squares of blankets and then exercise is in a I just stretching exercises and a warm pool.

02:24 Cadillac physical therapy go to physical therapy that they need to do it today and then I left there and spend three months and Warm Springs, Georgia.

02:35 Have they started down President Roosevelt founded?

02:40 That's now part of the Georgia Department of rehabilitative Services. So I was there from late October until early, February 1959.

02:53 And more you there by yourself.

02:56 Well, it was about 300 other kids down there but no family.

03:03 I'm strange and scary. It was a little strange with I did have the advantage of having a distant cousin who was in Fort Benning.

03:15 Listen to I just got out of the army and stayed at Fort Benning Georgia for a number of years and they would come up about once every two weeks or so.

03:27 So that helped.

03:30 Made some friends there that

03:34 Had seen since but though.

03:38 It was pretty wild game kids. There must have been many challenges along the way for you living with this diagnosis. Can you tell me about them? Not so much challenges so much more than anyone else. I did have the Good Fortune of having parents who decided life was normal, but everybody lives for some some form of

04:10 What the world would consider abnormalities or I'm still waiting. I'm 60 years old and still waiting for somebody to tell me what normal is Kelso.

04:24 People use varying degrees of assistive technology glasses. Some people have Dentures course veterans and wounded soldiers that live in So Vain degrees of dysfunction, I guess is a better word. So which is worse and what's wants to overcome has always been now.

04:57 My o I guess my big question. The other thing is is so I think my parents in their wisdom decided that everything was no different than adult head had been with them their previous three children it

05:16 Then me and one more so as family of 5 and I was fourth in the pecking order I guess.

05:28 Your life is been normal to you. I mean there's do what you need to do. And what everybody else has to have to do it though.

05:39 Again

05:42 Wonderful what the definition of abnormal is then within that I guess was an early.

05:51 Perception

05:53 Being able to watch people's is I'm a people watching so I watch people's expression. I watch people's reactions.

06:04 And

06:07 Then try to maybe read too much into it, but read into want their response is and put mainly in turn dictates my response to that. So you will you can watch people get their exercise by jumping to conclusions most of time false assumptions that

06:32 There's something wrong. And so I generally

06:41 Use Atlas my gauges put in that I want to engage them.

06:48 Most of them do have a preconceived notion that you obviously don't work better if never worked.

07:00 And are supported by some of the support system other than went to the traditional values of this country has always been and that's you live if you work in you.

07:15 When you and I became friends and co-workers back in 1976, you were very mobile you use crutches and leg braces and you could go anywhere that I could go and you seem to have no problem with it. I know within the past several years, you've had you begun to use a motorized scooter. And I know that that was a difficult decision for you. Did you have you noticed did you notice at that time any changes in the way people treated you when you were standing on your own two feet shoulder-to-shoulder with people and then sitting in your scooter.

07:56 Those who know me know those who don't people that you made yesterday. There's a difference.

08:05 People have a tendency not the one to look down that don't want to approach it on the high level 10 to speak across the top of your head or speak away from him. So well.

08:20 Those so ghetto

08:23 Fairly short trip for me cuz I retract generally return the favor even even when I was using my crutches a good example would be we could go out to eat take the kids waitress of dumb waiter in this case. Maybe they would ask my wife what she wanted to eat and ask my kids what they want to eat and then turn to my wife and see what's he going to have.

08:53 And chill she handled it.

08:57 Better than I did I guess cuz she usually told him that I was perfectly capable of ordering for myself. And I know why don't you ask him cuz he's paying the bill and you just lost your tip. So the attitudes of the worst of the spent my entire professional career working on in human services and trying to make some of these someone else's life a little easier and advocating for the removal of architectural barriers attitudinal barriers and

09:38 Breaking down the old stereotypes and in the mountains stereotypes Die Hard

09:49 I don't know that they died any easier in them in the more metropolitan areas or or in the city, but people have a tendency to get away from you and move on more quickly than your neighbor or co-workers or friends or Associates in a rule area that you see everyday.

10:13 So you're going to the schedule with it was a big change or something.

10:20 Michelle just gave out at 48 years of crutches and just wouldn't do it anymore and it's too soon old too late smart.

10:30 Probably something I should have done.

10:32 At least partially several years ago.

10:38 As a person living with them disability you've accomplished much and I know you don't.

10:44 You don't like to.

10:49 Announce what you've done but you know, you're the deputy director here at him EOC you service executive director at the junction Center for Independent Living and you have your own tax and accounting service knowing you the way I know you you're not ready to throw up your hands and say that's enough. You know, I've accomplished enough. I quit. I'm just wondering what what are your next goals that you want to accomplish?

11:17 Oh, I don't know that I have any 7 concrete or rub.

11:23 I rode around several one of which is right book.

11:29 I like banana.

11:32 Somebody is at the Bradford video.

11:38 Help with other people have had the Good Fortune of back as a career backing into Human Services from the business world and I haven't spent about 40 years in the Human Services field is I have had the Good Fortune of

12:01 If not, helping develop at least being in the room where they Human Services.

12:08 System in Virginia at least has been developed and them have watched the growth and

12:19 Plumbing for the funding work with the members of the general assembly in the various Governors and Senators congressmen are. I'm enjoying the game of politics. So I don't want I don't want to run for public office, but I enjoy the game and it's been really interesting to

12:46 See how

12:48 Little boy that grew up in the country in the wrong side of the tracks can influence public policy.

12:59 What is the one thing that maybe we've not talked about that you that you would like for me to ask you or for you to tell me?

13:10 I don't know about the questions, but the

13:15 The thing that the I guess I wanted this interview to accomplish with the fact that

13:24 We're all.

13:26 Creatures of the same creator

13:34 Attitudinal barriers that still exist that down

13:40 Where

13:43 Persons with disabilities are

13:47 Give up there.

13:50 Advocates for themselves self-advocacy is always the best. No, but no one can tell your story like you can and to get away from

14:01 Them

14:03 Passivity of

14:06 Sing this is my lot in life in and so I'm perfectly happy to Will.

14:13 Let someone else or do that or wait for something to happen and I'm a firm believer in there are those that make things happen those at wonder what happened and those it don't really care. So I've always wanted to be one who made things happen.

14:35 And I know right wrong or indifferent at least be part of the part of the fight.

14:47 There's some

14:51 A lot of room in the back for the wounded, so don't be in the back day out front.

14:58 To self advocacy, you know when?

15:03 When I think of you as my friend, I think of all these things that you've accomplished I think of you as my coworker my friend and oh, by the way, you're also a polio victim, you know, that is the last thought in my mind, but first impressions for most of us is hard.

15:25 To it's hard to overcome. It's hard to not make an impression. So, how can you how can we help people not?

15:40 Tiptoe by that first impression

15:47 LOL, that's a good question about love. A lot of about half of it to attack. It is very difficult to attack.

15:57 In a society that values the worth of an individual by the house that live in the clothes they wear in the car they drive and

16:08 We don't ascribe a great deal of value to honesty character.

16:18 Curing a sense of community. I guess if you will that.

16:26 Everybody

16:28 Is a part of society and deserves a

16:36 A contributor part in society cuz every life tells a story.

16:42 There's a there's an old adage. I guess that story of person walking through the cemetery and just looking at dates on headstones and there's always a beginning date of birth. And then an ending date. This is Dave date of death in between is a dash, but that bashes lifetime.

17:12 So and trying to figure out how

17:20 I get to get people to think how you going to live you guys.

17:26 What is your story? What is your contribution? What is What is the value?

17:35 What you leave behind?