Browsing old newspapers quite often turns up interesting facts about life in the old days. I recently ran across this jewel regarding home remedies when I was researching hurricanes in Florida during the last century.
SOURCE: Tampa Tribune, 5 October 1958
excerpt from “Frog Smith Recalls Some Successful Home Remedies”
“Back in those days there was usually a man in the neighborhood who was the counterpart of the Indian medicine man. He would use white oak leaves and a bunch of voodoo talk to cure the baby’s thrash, but somehow it worked.
Another trick of his that worked was scarifying the baby to cure the hives. First thing he would ask for on entering a house where he was to cure a baby, would be the mother’s god wedding ring. Then with the keen point of a razor he would nick the skin between the baby’s shoulder blades and draw a drop of blood by sucking through the gold wedding ring. Then the blood would be carefully saved and when mixed with a teaspoonful of mother’s milk it was fed to the baby–who got well.
Once when one of my own boys, who is now almost middle-aged, was having trouble cutting teeth, store bought remedies did no good, and some old-timer advised me to kill a cottontail rabbit and rub its brains on the boy’s gums. I got the rabbit that day and the wife smeared the brains on his gums as directed. Whether it was the brains or our faith, it worked and his squalling decreased that night. While his mother watched over him he cut the rest of his teeth without trouble–and to show his appreciation she was the first he bit with them.
Sickness among working people in the old days was a long way different from what it is today. Back then the doctor visited the home where there were plenty of neighbors to help. Now the first advice heard is to get to the hospital while the neighbors shy away until they learn whether whatever it is is not contagious. Visiting contagious cases was common in Florida up until the Flu epidemic in 1918. And with caution very few people took contagious diseases before that. Measles were a must, but they seldom hurt much. Mumps were had now and then and most kids had the whooping cough, but though I slept with both I never had either.
The worst case of any contagious disease I ever had was the German measles that went the rounds during the First World War. My wife broke out with them on our wedding trip, and I not only caught the darn things but relapsed with them twice.”