The bizarre story behind Mary Poppins’ song, “A Sugar Spoon,” Has Direct Links to Vaccination


1964 cinema Mary poppins is one of Disney’s all-time classic movies, a film that has inspired and thrilled generations of fans. Not only do fans adore the characters and performances in the film, but the soundtrack has become a staple, with tunes like “A Spoonful of Sugar” entering the lexicon of pop culture.

(left to right) Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews | LMPC via Getty Images

In the film, Julie Andrews, who plays the magical nanny Mary Poppins, sings the song to the children of Banks when they need their meds. However, in real life the song has a slightly darker connotation, with the songwriters writing the song about the polio vaccine.

“A Spoonful of Sugar” is a fan favorite song of “Mary Poppins”

“A Spoonful of Sugar” is a delicious, light song that helped solidify Mary poppins like a fan favorite movie. There is no doubt that Julie Andrews’ irresistible rendition of the song has helped it become such a standard – and to this day people sing the song while performing any task that might normally be considered unpleasant, including taking medication or cleaning up a household mess.

The song was written by the songwriting team of Robert and Richard Sherman, two brothers who also wrote the classic Disney song “It’s a Small World After All”. In the years since the song and the movie became hits, Robert Sherman’s son Jeffrey Sherman spoke of the bizarre inspiration for “A Spoonful of Sugar”.

Robert and Richard Sherman wrote “A Spoonful of Sugar” on the polio vaccine

According to CNN, Jeffrey Sherman claimed that his father, Robert Sherman, was inspired by his son’s experience with the oral polio vaccine in school. As Sherman recalled, he was afraid of injections, so nurses figured out a way to get him oral polio shots. After coming home for the day, he told his father about it,

“I told him they put it on a piece of sugar and you just ate it.” He stared at me, then went to the phone and called my Uncle Dick.

Jeffrey Sherman’s experience helped give the Sherman Brothers team the boost they needed to write a song that featured a catchy tagline – and Walt Disney ultimately loved the song, including in Mary poppins.

Vaccines finally stopped the spread of polio

According to PBS, polio was prevalent around the world until the middle of the 20th century. The disease can affect people of all ages, although young children seem to suffer the most devastating effects. People diagnosed with polio suffered from extreme difficulty breathing and often had to be placed in a device known as an “iron lung,” a negative pressure ventilator that helped the lungs function.

While some polio survivors have made a full recovery, others have had to use a wheelchair or crutches for the rest of their lives. High-profile polio survivors include actress Mia Farrow, who contracted the disease at the age of nine and had to use an iron lung to help her recover.

Singer Joni Mitchell, director Francis Ford Coppola and performer Neil Young, as well as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose battle with polio required him to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life, also feature on the list of polio survivors. life.

Fortunately, the development of the polio vaccine in the 1950s helped slow the spread of polio. Aggressive vaccination campaigns in schools and official venues encouraged people of all ages to step up and get vaccinated – and by 1979, according to the CNN report, the spread of the disease was eradicated.

Today, according to the CDC, professionals still recommend that children get the polio vaccine at four distinct stages of their development to protect them from the serious effects of the disease. Although most often given as an injection, a ‘spoon of sugar’ in the form of a candy might still encourage hesitant children to let the ‘medicine go down’.

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