Social and Political Commentary

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Remedies

...A spoon full of sugar

carol nelson

When winter winds blew in the 1940's, I remember standing in line each day with my siblings for my dose of cod liver oil. Mom spoon fed it to us before we marched out the door to school, over a mile away, and uphill in both directions!

I don't recall taking vitamins in those early years. Mom fervently believed in vegetables and fruit. In the fall my father would make a deal with someone with an orchard and we kids would be driven to it. I guess our motivation was that nobody was going home until the trees were empty and the truck was full. I suppose the fresh air and exercise were a bonus.

At home, my great grandmother, Ida M. Day, could often be found ironing while muttering under her breath. She lived long and well and I don't think she ever took any medicine unless you count the Milk of Magnesia she downed by the gallon.

All wounds were to be soaked in the hottest water possible. Chicken soup was of course the best cure for common cold, but in my case, if I were to become sick at school, I was instructed to go to Lander's Delicatessen. There, dear Mrs. Landers, surrounded by pickle barrels, salami, bulky rolls, corned beef, gifilte fish, sour cream, huge jars of pickeled eggs, pigs knuckles and accompanying aromas, gave me grandmother love until my father showed up to take me home.

Mom was very hard working and the only medicine she ever spoke of wanting was probably pre-prozac. She complained to our General Practitioner that she was "nervous". Dr. Hopkins suggested the cure would be divorce. Anyway, the family medicine cabinet had aspirin in it next to Papa's Old Spice after-shave. Being overfull after dinner was rare, but the cure was to "go outside and run around the house a few times". Vick's vapo-rub was a cold remedy that was so repellent that it probably kept us from even thinking of getting a cold. It would be rubbed generously on the victim's chest. Cries of protest were likely a good sign.

I recall getting innoculated on my upper arm; my little sister on her upper leg, causing vaccination marks. We were all sent to the hospital in a sort of package deal, to have our tonsils out under ether. We were sent home, four sad and crumpled children on Easter morning, and though we were warned not to do so, we ate the entire contents of our Easter baskets, which helped everything but our throats. Everybody knows ice cream is the only true remedy for tonsilectomy.

I have been taking a survey of people I know to find out what remedies were inflicted on them when they were children. There are some amazing ones. One lady said her family would cook a goose for Christmas, which provided plenty of grease that would be liberally rubbed into the chest area in time of illness. The poultice was commonly used or a kerosene oil and butter rub. The hot water bottle was innocuous and comforting. The hot toddy, nothing to sneeze at. But wearing an asafeteta bag around one's neck that stank to high heaven must have been very unpleasant for everyone involved.

So...how is it that a generation that took castor oil, chocolate flavored ex-lax and such, now supports a $78 billion dollar a year prescription and over the counter drug business in the United States alone? Why do 5% of the world's people (US) take 60% of the drugs? How could an average couple need 20 prescriptions between them? Food for thought.

January 6, 2006


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