When I was a child, on the farm of the sixties, we kids had our fair share of cuts and scrapes and bruises and at that time there wasn’t any triple antibiotic ointment that I know of. I was shocked the other day when I went to buy a tube—the price was so expensive. I’ve used it since my kids were little; Dr. Sally Mendoza first recommended it for my toddler. It’s the “go to “ for most wounds—even for our pets here on the farm.
While driving home (rarely a radio, I do my best thinking in the car) I began recalling what we used before triple antibiotic ointment. Then, I remembered! Merthiolate or Mercurochrome. The first one burned, the other didn’t, or at least I didn’t remember the latter burning, especially once you’ve had the Merthiolate. I don’t know how mother knew which to use, or why, or maybe it was whatever was left in the medicine cabinet that hung on the bathroom wall, concealed behind the mirror.
Sister Debbie and I, circa 1960. Long before I knew,
or remembered the orange tincture.
As I recalled, I remember, maybe you do too, how dang bad the Merthylate burned. If your boo-boo warranted mother’s look, out came the orange stuff. It only took one first time, dipstick application for a kid to remember, and not forget, it was going to sting. Heck! That’s an understatement. It down right BURNED. Once applied, we’d jump around squalling until the burning subsided while mother looked at us like, really? Or try to convince us,“Stop it. That doesn’t burn that bad.”Once we settled down, we’d slap a Band-Aid over the top and off we went. Why is it that a Band-Aid was like your reward? But never the less, we were protected from infection until the orange went away. Which were days that often turned into a week. The Band-Aid fell off from the oil and sweat or baths long before the orange went away.
Finally, we learned if we held still long enough, mother or sister could blow on the newly applied medicine and it helped alleviate the burning. Which, I guess it did mostly. Then, we’d slap a Band-Aid on it and off we went. Of course the Mercurochrome didn’t burn a bit. We much more preferred it to the Merthiolate, but pronouncing the words was a tongue twister, for sure.
Of course as a kid, if we had a deep gash, out came the peroxide. It didn’t burn, but felt weird bubbling out the “dirt,” we were schooled. Ok, we didn’t mind that at all. Slap a Band-Aid on it and good to go. Once in a while, however, alcohol was brought out. OMG. It was worse than the Merthiolate, indeed. Why did we use it? Probably because we were out of everything else. So our leg wouldn’t rot off? LOL. I’m not sure, but after we did the Mexican jumping bean dance, we’d slap a Band-Aid on it and off we went.
Sister Debbie and I soon agreed we “didn’t need to bring everything to Mom’s attention,” thus avoiding her doctoring and the awful antiseptic tinctures. We’d just sneak in; get our own Band-Aid…slap a Band-Aid on it and off we’d go. And not one of our legs rotted off. And, all in all, thank God, we indeed survived the sixties.
So Here’s the Thing…I truly believe that old time remedies, like a mustard poultice my Grandma Phillips made and applied to my Daddy’s chest to help alleviate his congestion was good–the smell, not so much! New remedies are improved, most likely to rid of the burn or smell that was obnoxious. However, don’t discount the old as being no good. They served their purpose and can still be useful. Vic’s-Vapo rub, (maybe as smelly as the mustard) , sure did its trick back in the day for my congestion and I loved the hot iron handkerchief placed around my neck with a safety pin.