"Wonderful Old Lawrence" by Elfriede Fischer Rowe

Home Remedies

Drawing of an assortment of different bottles and remedies

     RECOVERING FROM THE present flu bug gave us time to remember all of the home remedies used years ago, and probably now long forgotten. Just 52 years ago the worst flu epidemic in Lawrence and in the country, took the lives of scores of old and young. The only means then of combating the disease was aspirin and whiskey.

     When we were young, if you were coming down with a cold, you were put to bed immediately and given a hot lemonade. This was made with the juice of a lemon, a very small amount of sugar and a tablespoon of bourbon whiskey. The glass was filled up with hot water. You had to drink it as hot as you could swallow it. Then you were buried under several layers of covers to "sweat" it out. In our house we used liquor only for medicinal purposes. Wine and beer were the pleasure drinks. Schnapps or Kummell were taken for stomach cramps, and blackberry cordial for diarrhea.

     In the winter time, we had a decanter on the sideboard filled with sticks of that clear, crystal rock candy put together with a string in the middle, and rye whiskey. A swallow of this syrupy mixture would stop coughing.

     Another remedy for coughs was lemon juice and honey, or the juice of a baked onion made into a syrup. The cure we liked the best was to suck sticks of horehound candy. If you had a chest cold or sore throat, you'd get a poultice of goose grease and turpentine rubbed on your throat and chest. Then a soft white wool flannel cloth (a piece of a worn out blanket), was tied around your throat and another piece placed on your chest. Sometimes you had to take a swallow of the stuff besides. Ear ache was treated by placing a hot baked onion wrapped in a cloth over the ear and on top of that a hot water bottle.

     Arnica was used by my grandmother to rub on affected parts for rheumatism.

     Poison ivy was treated with wood ashes rubbed over the rash. That dried up the blisters. We had a yard man who chewed tobacco all of the time he worked. One day a wasp stung him. He dropped his tools, spit in his hand and rubbed the sting. Then he reached down and took some soft loose dirt and rubbed that

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on the sting. He said he never had any after effects from any insect sting.

     Vitamins were unknown in those days, at least to the layman. Oranges were not continuously in the markets as now. A half dozen oranges placed with your birthday packages were a treat and not a necessary breakfast drink. In wintertime, we had to take a tablespoon of cod liver oil once a day. And what a battle that brought on.

     When we were recovering from any illness, our Grandmother Fischer would make vegetable soup in a tall, black, iron kettle. She had two special enamel buckets with lids that she delivered the soup in. The grey one held about a quart and the white with blue trim, held two quarts. We got the smaller one if she had friends who were also ailing. Oatmeal cookies packed in a shoe box came along with the soup.

     I recall many times in my childhood when old Dr. F. D. Morse would stop by our house and ask Mother if she could spare a bottle of wine for Mrs. So and So, who needed wine to give her an appetite and strength. He claimed rich, red, wine improved the blood. Grandfather Jaedicke believed in the old adage of "An apple a day keeps the doctor away". It seemed that every morning of the world he would drink a cup of hot water and eat a Jonathan apple. We always had three barrels of apples in the cellar -- Jonathan, York Imperial and Grimes Golden. He would sit in our big kitchen at a small marble-top table at the window and peel and cut the apple in quarter sections. The marble top had come out of the Lawrence National Bank when they remodeled their counters. Then he would have breakfast in the dining room -- the same breakfast year after year as long as I can remember -- a soft boiled egg, eaten Continental style, home made bread and jelly, coffee with cream. He would finish off with a piece of Kuchen (coffee cake thickly covered with sugar and butter), dunked in his coffee.

     Our coffee was always ground at home. The only variation from this normal diet was bacon added a few mornings in the week. My father varied this menu by finishing up with some limburger cheese that Mother kept in a covered butter dish. But he smell always came across the table when the lid was lifted.

     Some of our friends had to drink calico tea and sassafras tea, but we never had it at home. A friend whose father was a doctor, recalled that her mother, over the protests of the father, insisted the children wear a small cloth bag around their necks. It was filled with evil smelling asafetida to keep them from having spasms. The bag was hidden inside their clothes, but you didn't need to see it to know they were wearing one.

     Another remedy used several years ago for flu, was prescribed by a local physician, now deceased. You placed three tea bags in a cup, poured boiling water over them, let stand for one minute

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by the clock, poured off the water and refilled the cup with boiling water and let steep for three minutes. With this you could nibble a piece of bread that had been toasted in the oven until it was a dark brown, almost burned.

     Alcohol rubs and sponging the body were the only means besides aspirin to reduce high fever.

     One of the biggest changes over the years is the doctor prescribing over the phone. You always looked forward to the doctor's call. You just seemed to feel better from that visit, even before the medicine was taken. The first thing the doctor had you do, was to stick out your tongue. The idea I suppose was to decide how bad off you were by the thickness of the coat on it. Then the thermometer came next and the pulse taking.

     In those early years, it was required by law that a contagious disease sign be posted near the front door. A member of the police department came to tack on the sign. The color of the card plus large black lettering, told you whether it was measles, chicken pox or whatever. As children, if we saw one of these signs posted, we would scamper across the street to avoid going close to the house. But sometimes we would be real daring and walk past, holding our breath and our noses so as not to catch the germ.

     Hospitals in the early years were established in former homes. Some of the Lawrence doctors installed a hospital in their own homes. Dr. W. C. McConnell lived where the Ship Winter parking lot is, across the street from Fritz Company. He maintained his hospital in the home. Dr. G. W. Jones used the second floor of his home at 1201 Ohio. The family living quarters were on the first floor. The hospital and the family shared the same kitchen on the first floor. There was a shortage of good nurses at one time, and Dr. Jones conducted a training school for nurses, probably the first one in Kansas.

     Dr. C. J. Simmons used the Jacob House home at 805 Ohio, after the House family sold it. Dr. A. J. Anderson's hospital was on the northwest outskirts of Lawrence, on Michigan street where the row of pine trees are still there. From there, his next location was at 1501 Pennsylvania, the A. H. Turney home now. Dr. John Outland, the former KU football star, was a surgeon in Kansas City and he operated in Lawrence for Dr. Anderson.

     The hospital rooms were quite spare -- bare wooden floors, but kept spotless. The high ceilings made the rooms seem even larger. Two biblical pictures hung on the walls of one of the rooms, one of Christ that looked across the room at you every time your eyes were open. The operating room was upstairs. How the patients were carried down those steep steps has remained a mystery. It is recalled, the day you came home from that hospital, you came by car and a chair was brought out to the car and you were carried in sitting on the chair.

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     Dr. H. T. Jones and Dr. E. R. Keith took most of their patients to Simmons hospital. It was the largest one. It is not recalled where Dr. H. L. Chambers took his patients.

     Haskell Institute had its own hospital on the grounds. The University of Kansas first hospital, I believe, was about 1920 and it was located in the 1400 block on Tennessee on the east side. The first city hospital was in the old Judge Barker home. It was a large frame structure that stood north of the present Lawrence Memorial hospital. It was at about 100 Maine. Lawrence now enjoys a baseball diamond that took its place.

     All of this was a far cry from the ultra modern hospitals and medicines of today. The use of the newer facilities, without a doubt, are reasons why some of us are still here.

Printed in Lawrence Journal-World, Dec. 13, 1968

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