by Delbert Trew
Were Simple, Gave Relief
probably would not have survived childhood without
Vicks, Mentholatum, castor oil and coal oil. These crude medications
were economical, the doses simple, and could be applied on a rag warmed
over a kerosene lamp chimney. All gave relief if you were patient.
I never caught any of the romantic diseases the big boys bragged about.
I only caught measles, mumps, chickenpox and the itch. All were common,
caught at school and not worth complaining or bragging about.
Early childhood open wounds were merely painted with iodine, wrapped
with a clean rag and the ends ripped in strips and tied. Only serious
wounds with bleeding were taken to the doctor's office because the
visit required money, which was scarce as hens' teeth at our house.
Most people raised in the country have a story or two telling of spending
a lot of time soaking a toe, hand or foot in coal oil from stepping
on a nail, chopping a toe with a hoe or like my episode where I split
my big toe with a post-hole digger helping mother plant a rose bush.
I spent an hour morning and night soaking that toe in coal oil. Today,
60 years later, when I trim the toenail on that toe I imagine I can
smell coal oil.
Remember the rolls of adhesive tape and packs of gauze pads? Mother
bought them in the commercial-size packages along with a paper sack
of Epson salts, which replaced coal oil. All wounds or sprains had
to be soaked in a pan of hot water with Epson salts added to reduce
swelling and soreness. Between our family members and a number of
employees working around farm equipment, there were always skinned
knuckles, cuts, bruises and sprains.
Later medications I consider miracles were Campho-phenique and Gray's
Ointment. In my mind these medicines rank right up there with duct
tape and baling wire on handy inventions. Apply Campho-phenique to
any wound or bruise and almost instantly the pain stopped.
I was a busy little boy who ran barefooted most of the time and played
out in the junk pile. Goat heads and splinters were my greatest hazard.
Place a little dab of Gray's Ointment where the sticker penetrated,
add a Band-Aid and the next morning the sticker would be gone.
The Band-Aid, as we know it today, was invented in 1920 by Earle Dickson,
a cotton buyer for Johnson & Johnson. The company had long manufactured
sterile bandages and adhesive tape. When Dickson combined the little
square of sterile gauze to the tape and inserted it into a sterile
paper wrapping, it soon became a standard household item. More than
100 billion Band-Aids have been sold in the last 80 years, according
to company advertising.
The modern-day mother or grandmother knows never to be without the
latest graphic designer Band-Aid in the varied colors and packaging
for the little ones. A "boo-boo" of any kind can be ministered with
a classic design Band-Aid. I'll admit it sure beats coal oil and iodine.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
- January 12, 2005 Column