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PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS: Memories of medication

Memories of medication in the 1930s onward.

Julia Campbell [nee Crombie]. b. Elie 1922

The medication we were given in the 1920s and 1930s and even later makes interesting reading considering what we are having to take in this century.

When my sister and I had a cold my mother made us a hot blackcurrant drink with her homemade jam. There was nothing else to take perhaps hot lemon if you could buy a fresh lemon. If our colds went down to our chest and we had a cough camphorated oil or Vic was warmed and rubbed on our chest. I remember my grandmother wore a square of camphor on a ribbon round her neck to ward off colds in the winter. For a pick me up we had to take a malt called Virol. Quite pleasant but not like Emulsion, which looked like salad cream and it was dreadful, very oily.

Now and again we would have a stomach upset and out would come Gregory’s mixture. A pink coloured powder which we had to take mixed with any kind of jam available. Castor oil –  a liquid which was terrible to take. A square of rather pale chocolate was easier to get down and preferable to the other nastier two. Recovering from any illness, my mother would make beef tea and it was just the gravy from a nice piece of beef. Either that or Bovril, which is still on supermarket shelves today. Homemade chicken broth was an excellent recovery soup.

If we had an accident while playing outside and got a bad graze a bread and sugar poultice was applied to draw out any poison that dirt would cause. Going to the Doctor if the poison was bad it was only a medicated bandage he would put on and we would have to make a return visit.

We did not drink water the way we all do now. I do remember Ribena and Lemon Barley Water and of course milk, Horlicks and Ovaltine

Remember certain things as I go along. Friars Balsam was good for a head cold and sinus problems. A little in a bowl with very hot water. We covered our head with a towel over the bowl and inhaled the steam. There were no nasal sprays at all then. No pill to take either to get us better quickly.

For toothache, cloves gave us a certain amount of relief. The dentist was to be avoided at all costs. Earache was eased with a warm hot water bottle to lay on the sore ear. When I broke my arm, a very thick plaster was applied and it wasn’t removed for quite some time. Other people would write their names on it. Eventually it was cut off.

Medication has definitely moved on to better things especially getting cured more quickly but we all survived in those days not knowing any better. I will mention Hospitals. I only had one experience as a twelve year old with a broken arm. Matron at the hospital had no patience for youngsters. She complained about the clothes I had on (too many) and as I recovered from the anaesthetic I was sick and she got annoyed about that. This was not a good experience regards hospitals for me. Matron at this hospital had quite a reputation for her manner. On the other hand you felt safe. That was my only visit to a hospital until the 1950s and even then another strange experience there being left on my own and not told what was happening when my daughter was born. The reason for the mention is the comparison with what takes place now.

Julia Campbell (Cupar, September 2010)

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