Butch survived his Mom’s cold remedies
“Well, young man, that’s what you get for playing outside in the snow with no stocking cap on. Maybe one day you’ll learn!”
Yes, I had the sneezes, a runny nose, sore throat, and congestion . . . a seemingly common occurrence for me back in the 1950s. I knew what to expect next, and no, it was not a visit to old Dr. Otten in Darlington. Dad continued on . . . “Your mother will cure you of that cold in no time. There’s no use spending $2 for a doctor visit.” I then said a silent prayer, “Please, Dear Lord . . . not Mom’s home remedies.”
I knew the routine by heart. The first thing Mom did was grab a bottle of what she called “sunshine” from the refrigerator. This was a syrupy, yellowish-orange colored substance that was supposed to prevent colds and other various ailments. To this day, I have no idea what it was. Mom made me swallow a spoonful each morning, and since I now had a cold, she concluded another dose would help.
Next came the bacon . . . four or five strips laid over my throat. “This will draw out the soreness for sure.” I’m sorry, Mom, you must have been dreaming; however, the good thing is that when my dog got a whiff, he stood by my side and kept me company . . . with his tongue hanging out and staring at my new bacon necklace.
“Open your mouth and stick your tongue out” was the next command . . . and here marched Mom with a jar of Vicks Vaporub. She stuck her finger in the jar and whipped out a big glob, “Now let it melt down your tongue slowly.” Each time I pleaded with her, “Mom, it says right on the label NOT TO BE TAKEN INTERNALLY. But it was always the same reply, “I don’t care what it says . . . Bernice (our landlady) eats a barrel of Vicks every winter, and it hasn’t hurt her yet!” Then after shoving more Vicks up my nose and rubbing it on my chest, it was time to plug in the old vaporizer and inhale the steam. Nothing like camphor and turpentine oil to clog your brain for the next few hours. I had become a human eucalyptus tree.
If my muscles ached or I had a stiff neck, Mom called for Dad, who grabbed the Omega oil and rubbed it in good . . . a little too good. He didn’t just put a little on his hands and rub it in gently . . . no, he poured it on the aching muscles and ground it in to the bone . . . no messing around . . . no time to waste . . . the Milton Berle show was starting.
The food remedy for my cold never varied . . . chicken noodle soup, hot tea, and a spoonful of neighbor Forrest Flaningam’s honey. And before I headed to bed, it was mandatory that I gargle saltwater, some of which I always accidentally swallowed. I then warmed my pillow on the fuel oil stove and headed upstairs, where the only heat came through the floor register from the living room . . . of course mixed with the smoke from Dad’s unfiltered Chesterfield cigarettes.
Since that upstairs bedroom was like an icebox, Mom and Dad actually purchased an electric blanket for my brother and me one winter. It worked pretty well . . . until one morning I woke up and smelled something burning. Yes, the blanket had a criss-cross pattern of brown lines where the heating wires had burned through it. When the company states that their blanket will keep you “toasty,” they weren’t kidding! The blanket ended up as padding in the dog house, and we had survived a potential bed-flame disaster.
Well, in about three days, I would usually start to feel better. Mom would attribute my recovery to her cures, although I had serious doubts. I guess her cold remedies must have been passed down through her familiy, and she wanted her little boy to be healthy again. Thanks, Mom.
I had a mild cold last week . . . the first one I have had in about three years. Although I am in my 70s, I very seldom become ill. I got over the cold very quickly. And no, I did not eat Vicks.
John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.