How many kids today do you think are forced to take castor oil? My Dad said that was the remedy of choice as he was growing up, and he had to endure taking many doses before he learned not to complain about every little ache and pain. He declared that he would not wish that to be given to any kid, thus sparing us from taking it. Perhaps this was the way to silence a child from complaining about how they felt; knowing that another dose of castor oil was in the works if the complaints continued. I am quite sure that would have been the remedy of choice with my mom had not Dad forbidden that a bottle of that enter the house. Mother's solution was not much better. She leaned heavily on mineral oil and Epsom salt. Going to Mother with a complaint normally meant that a dose of Epsom salt dissolved in a glass of water was the key to a cure. Of one thing you could be certain, after a dose or two your bowels would be clean. After giving this some consideration, maybe that was Mother's way of keeping down complaints about every ache and pain. A cut was treated by soaking the affected area in kerosene and applying Vaseline to keep out the dirt.
I can remember only three times when I saw a doctor as I was growing up. In those days doctors made house calls (imagine that now) and on one occasion the doctor came to check me out. I hesitate to say this, but as my parents are both deceased and cannot find this out, I can fess up. I was tired of going to school and decided the answer was to play sick. I complained so much that Dad got in touch with Doctor Jones and had him come to the house. I am quite sure his diagnosis was that I would be well in a day or two. He left some pills (probably placebos in my case) as was the normal practice of doctors at that time (but not necessarily placebos). Leaving a prescription would have been useless as we would never make it to a drugstore, so doctors knew to leave the medicine with the patient. I also remember that if a trip to a doctor's office was necessary you had best get ready to bare your butt because you would get a needle in it before you paid your six dollars for treatment; one dollar of that was to pay for the nurse to give the shot. Now you are probably getting the idea that we are talking about a long time ago.
The second time I saw a doctor was for real. A large boil, as it was called, had formed on my body. I was small and do not remember the exact location, but Dad took me to Doctor Manley and had it lanced. To this day, I have never had anything to hurt so badly. One time when playing hide and seek with my siblings and some neighboring children I stepped on a short pronged garden rake which had been left with the prongs sticking up, and about three prongs penetrated through my foot, but this did not call for a visit to a doctor or emergency room. At first I soaked it for a long time in kerosene and then later in water loaded with Epsom Salt, and this was the cure. It sidelined me, however, and as the school year was ending, and I was unable to walk on the injured foot. I was unable to go to school to get my final report card for the year. This was perhaps a fortunate thing in the long run as my teacher that year was not there the following year. When I told school officials that I had been promoted with honors and they failed to find my record as the departed teacher had failed to turn it in, and I had no report card to show whether I had been promoted or retained to repeat the second grade, they had no choice but to place me in the third grade. If you have not picked up on this already, I am trying to confess that I was no star student in grade school and needed any break that I could get to be promoted to the next grade including running a fork through my foot. As I remember that teacher to be a compassionate person and I tried hard to be her pet student, I like to think that she would have had mercy on me and passed me to the third grade, so I have no regrets that I claimed to have been promoted.
Childhood diseases ran rampant at that time, and when one child became infected it would not be long before entire groups that were exposed would catch it. Common diseases included measles, mumps, chicken pox, whooping cough, cholera, malaria, dysentery, pink eye, hives, and the dreaded polio. The common cold and flu were expected, and coughs and runny noses were a frequent menace. An outbreak of any of these infirmities would trigger a deep cut in school and church attendance.