We Never Got Sick or Injured...I Wasn't Worth It...
Our daughter,Tracey, called a few minutes ago and wanted to know how to find something on the internet. I, of course, gave her the standard answer: ‘Type it into google.’ That always works for me.
Googling things is a lot like staying well was when I was a kid. Now when you need to know something, you call on Google. When I was a kid, to stay well, my sisters and brother and I, under the strict supervision of our Mother, took “Calatabs” and “Black Draught" and kerosene and sugar for colds and used Merthiolate for skinned places, large gashes, small gashes and anything else that bled.
The calatab was a small, round slick pill. (No one ever knew what was in it) It shouldn’t have been hard to swallow but it was. When you tried to gulp it down, it went as far as the top of your throat and stayed there all day. I’ve eaten as much as a whole loaf of Kilpatricks bread trying to get the calatab to go down but it never worked. I think it eventually just melted away. It was the first in history, 'time release pill.'
The Black Draught was worse. It was in a flaky, grainy but very fine powder form and to do any good, it had to be taken into the mouth dry and washed down with a glass of water. I remember how hard it was to get all of the powder down. Sometimes it took up to three glasses of water to get it all down. It was bad enough to gag a maggot! I think I was only sick once or twice during my entire childhood.
Us kids learned at an early age to not catch colds. The best medicine for colds was sugar mixed in with a little kerosene. I remember wondering if I would blow up if I took that 'medicine' while I was standing too near the stove. And, if I snuck around and smoked,i made sure it wasn't while using the outhouse after taking Moms 'cold medicine.'
I never took cuts or abrasions home either. I did for a while when I was very young, until I realized merthiolate burned much worse than the skint place hurt.
Merthiolate was a red medicine in a little bitty brownish/reddish bottle. It had a cap that screwed onto the top and attached to the underside of the cap was a glass applicator than went down into that bottle of liquid fire. I’m sure the reason Merthiolate was in such a small bottle was, if there was too much in a bigger bottle, it would break out into flames and burn up. It was that hot!
Once, when I was swimming in the river down at the pipe, I cut my right knee to the bone on a broken beer bottle. I climbed out of the river and found a wad of paper and held it on my knee to try to stop the bleeding until I could get home which was a half mile away. It still bled pretty good and, just as I came in sight of my house, I remembered the Merthiolate and immediately turned around to go back to the river and tough it out. (as tough as you can be at age ten)
Too late! My mother saw me and started yelling for me to 'come here, right now!' I was caught. I reluctantly went on to the house and showed Mom my slashed knee. She said, "James Cameron, what have you done?" I didn't answer because I knew it was pretty obvious what I had done. Somehow I felt guilty for having had an accident; I should have been more careful and inspected the entire river bed before going into the water.
Anyhow, Mother got a clean dish towel and tore a strip off of it then got the Merthiolate. I told her it was much better now and would probably be all right, but you know Mothers, they think they know better about everything. Mom said, "James Cameron, now, I know better than that," and she sat me down in the front yard on a peach crate and cleaned the gash and, no matter how much I whimpered, applied the Merthiolate liberally. I know the neighbors are still wondering what the ensuing loud scream was about; maybe a mountain lion had wandered into the neighborhood and was calling his mate.
It burned like fire and Mother comforted me as she always did with, "James Cameron, now you shut that up or I'll give you something to yell about!" Well, I figured I had enough to yell about already so I shut up and quietly waited for the fire to go out.
Mom opined as to how maybe now I would think twice about going back to that river and maybe catching polio. She was right; I did think twice,-once on the peach crate and once on the way back to the river.
There was another medicine a lot like merthiolate. It was called, “Mercurochrome.” I asked my Mother once why we didn’t use that one and she said it wouldn’t do any good because it didn’t burn! Go figure! It made sense to her.