Monday, April 18, 2016

A to Z April Challenge: O is for Ointment

Genealogists and family historians get a lot of satisfaction from chasing their ancestors’ stories. Finding a diary, a message on a postcard, or a photo with a name attached is like the sun coming out after a storm. One day we will be somebody’s ancestor. We need to leave our descendants a little bit of sunshine too. So here is my story told alphabetically, not chronologically: Growing Up in Cradock.

is for Ointment.

It seems that when I was growing up in Cradock in the 1960s, there was always someone with a broken arm or leg, or at least a sprain. Not me. I managed to escape serious injury (except for that nose incident), but I could get a cold like nobody’s business.

When I was congested, unable to breathe, and coughing until it hurt, Momma whipped out the Vicks VapoRub and one of my dad’s undershirts.
image from eBay


Yes, my dad’s undershirt. I could feel the healing begin the minute Momma opened the jar. The menthol and eucalyptus opened the sinuses, and the initial cold of the suave as Momma rubbed it onto my chest turned to heat with the help of Daddy’s soft undershirt. Because it is an oil-based ointment, VapoRub was never intended to be used under or inside the nose or mouth, but I know of people whose mothers made them swallow the ointment when they had a sore throat.

image from Pinterest








VapoRub was regarded as the miracle cure for most ailments, but my dad would have disagreed. His medicine of choice was Mercurochrome. It was used for minor wounds, scratches, burns, and many types of sores. It stained the skin red, and the stain did not wash out for weeks. As a tennis player, racquet ball player, and mower of the lawn, my dad endured any number of wounds, scratches, and sores. As a result, my parents’ bathroom often displayed splashes of Daddy’s wonder-cure. Sometimes we didn’t know if it was blood or the Mercurochrome.

image from Flickr 

Mercurochrome is no longer sold in the United States, partly due to the mercury content and partly because the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t want to pay for further testing on a product that doesn’t produce much revenue to begin with. But VapoRub is still going strong with its reputation as the best cure for most ailments.

I tend to think the warmth of a dad’s soft undershirt is what makes it all better.

Mary Jollette Slade and Fred Slade before 1970 http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Mary Jollette and Daddy either Father's Day or his birthday
and look - he's all decked out in his undershirt!
(or maybe it was a tennis shirt - I can't tell)

You are under no obligation, but it would be obtuse for me to obstruct your odyssey to the A to Z April Challenge.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved

24 comments:

  1. I remember Vicks VapoRub well! (But swallowing it?!?) The photos were a great addition to your AtoZ post. Thanks for the memories! :)
    https://meinthemiddlewrites.com/2016/04/18/me-in-the-middle-of-atozchallenge-letter-o/

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    1. I wouldn't think it would be safe to swallow. Thanks for the visit!

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  2. Vick was a fall-back in our house for many years. I shudder to think how old the one in our medicine cabinet is.

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    1. Really! We have some old meds too. We threw out quite a bit of old stuff when we cleaned out my parents' house.

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  3. Just seeing the word VapoRub and I immediately got the smell that it was :) Always used at our house on our chests and under our noses for those colds we seemed to catch. I didn't realize mercurochrome was no longer sold here in the states. Tells you when the last time I went looking for some, but I do remember we had that too in our growing up years.

    betty

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    1. Yes, the "fragrance" of VapoRub is unforgettable!

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  4. You must take the prize for the most original O entry - who would have thought of Ointment. I certainly remember Vick from my childhood and still use it today. My mother's other medicinal cure-all was hot lemon and honey. There was a family joke that you could have a broken leg, but she would still offer you a "nice hot drink of lemon and honey" to make you feel better.

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    1. To hot lemon and honey, we add a shot of whiskey. Maybe 2 shots. If your mother had included whiskey, no one would have cared about that broken leg!

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  5. Oh, I love Vicks vapour rub. Over here in Germany it's written Wicks. Still going strong. Thanks for the lovely aromatic post.

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    1. I like it too. Wicks? Still pronounced "Vicks"??

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  6. sooooo many memories! Mercurochrome was an amazing liquid - it cured every scrape imaginable and as for Vicks Vapour Rub, I still remember my mum rubbing it on my chest and then I did the same for my children. I still have some that I use when I have a clogged nose - I think it's the fond memories as much as the vapour! PS I've heard people put it on the soles of their feet at night time with socks and it does amazing things - weird! Leanne @ cresting the hill

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    1. I read about putting Vicks on your feet but had never known anyone to do it. But it makes sense.

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  7. Some of my friends mothers used Mercurochrome but my mom never did and I was envious of my friends having pretty red-coloured skin.
    We did, however, use Vicks VapoRub!I too can smell it just thinking about it.
    Some friends and I were talking just the other day about getting the flu as kids and I mentioned my Mom giving me a Mustard Plaster. Did you have that? It is a poultice of mustard seed powder made into a paste and spread on a clean cloth and laid on the chest (Peeeee-ew!!) and was quite hot on the skin. My Mom used to get pneumonia all the time and the doctor told my Dad to make them for her.

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    1. My grandmother talked about mustard plasters but I guess we had advanced to Vicks and didn't need such an "old fashioned" treatment. HA. As much as I love mustard, I might have licked it right off the cloth.

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  8. Very original 'O' word, and one most can recall having rubbed on our chest, stuck up our nose and vaporized. There is a jar in my medicine cabinet, so yep, I use it...occasionally. I remember that 'Red Stain Stuff'...it burned like crazy so immediate blowing was necessary...guess the breath germs weren't an issue. I didn't have many colds, but did have lots of earaches that my Dad cured with Crisco eardrops.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

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    1. Never heard of Crisco eardrops. I've known people to use their own urine for an earache. Bleh ~ bring on the Crisco!

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  9. We used Vicks vaporub and mecurachrome and also iodine. I used Vicks with my kids and probably still have some around. We just used it under our nightgowns, no soft daddy's undershirts. I don't remember any lemon and honey growing up but I did use it with my kids and use it now with ginger added.
    Finding Eliza

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    1. Ginger must taste good too -- there's a lot of heat in ginger.

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  10. I still use Vicks VapoRub. Love that deep, penetrating menthol smell and heat.

    @WeekendsinMaine
    Weekends in Maine

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    1. Same here! Thanks for the visit!

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  11. We never used Vicks but I can remember finding it in the medicine cabinet at my grandparents'. I loved that smell.

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  12. I was rarely sick, either, but I have a slight memory of watching my mother smother Vicks under my sister's nose.

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  13. I still take Vicks with me when I travel in winter ;) thankfully I was never asked to swallow it..,yuk!!

    Other mums used mercurochrome but it wasn't a staple in our house. Mum's treatment for sunburn was a mix of Friar's Balsam and methylated spirits (metho)...it made your skin look a sickly yellow.

    These days Aloe Vera and PawPaw ointment are the cure-all ointments.

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  14. And yes, lemon and honey and ginger with a shot of whisky ;)

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