Surely they were just old wives tales… 192



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The way it was in our day…  Do you remember being given any medicine as a child and as you struggled to swallow it, you were  told how it was good for you? The local chemist had very few medicines, there weren’t shelves and shelves of pills and lotions, just a few small boxes.

We had aspirin for fever, and we also had a special cough medicine that took your breath away.  There were so many ‘cures’ that were far worse than the complaint.  Calamine lotion was slathered on and supposed to cure just about any skin ailment. If you got sunburned you came back from the beach looking like the ghost from a horror movie. Vaseline had a hundred uses too, it was rubbed in or on anything that looked suspect. Olive oil was heated and poured into our ears. You soon learned not to complain too much of ear ache.

Poultices though, were a severe punishment. “I told you not to touch that scab” Mum would mutter as the small lump turned into a huge throbbing and painful boil. Then the poultice would be put on the stove in to heat up in hot water.  So as well as a searing pain on your arm you would have a Kaolin poultice slapped on. Kaolin sticks to the skin and the heat is supposed to ‘bring it to a head’. There is no agony like that, well except toothache.  Toothache was treated with oil of cloves on the gum, you rubbed it in and prayed I think. It did very little to help the pain, I preferred my grandma’s method a touch of brandy, now that worked.

I also recall those awful concoctions supposed to clean your inner workings. We had Syrup of Figs, and Andrews Liver salts given to us as a regular thing every Sunday. Why did we need to have inner cleanliness on Sunday?  Did it go with Godliness?

Amazing things containing opium were actually sold in the late 40’s and 50’s, There was Dr. Colliss’s concoction for an upset stomach. It apparently contained opium, and many medicines that soothed and gave relief were actually mixtures containing morphine too.  Who said we never had drugs in those days, they sold them in the local chemist shop and no one even batted an eyelid.

Vick was rubbed onto our chests, in such quantities the clothing stuck to you. Cod Liver oil and castor oil were also used frequently. I got used to Cod liver oil as we had that in a mix with orange juice, but castor oil would have me running for the door.

Has anyone else memories of home medicine? We very rarely visited a doctor, so home treatment was necessary.  I appear to have survived quite well, but I often wonder what on earth the children now would do if we tortured them with these cures!  The ultimate horror was the old fashioned dentist with his whining grinding drill, so just be grateful times have changed, and that your grand kids don’t face the same fate.

What are your memories of healthcare and medicine when you were a child? What products and superstitious remedies were you subjected to? Share your memories in the comments below… 


Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

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