Anyone who gets sick or sustains an injury nowadays has a good chance of getting well thanks to the know-how of our many family doctors, medical specialists, nurses and others serving in the health care industry. The same can be said of the pharmaceutical industries that produce medical devices and drugs so essential in the treatment.
Modern medical care for hundreds of thousands of Alabama farm families was as scares as hen’s teeth in the 1940s and 1950s. In most cases where a family member contracted an illness, medical care was provided by a mother or grandmother with considerable home remedy skills. The farm we lived on was five miles from a family doctor and 35 miles from a hospital. A visit to the hospital was out of the question unless it was a life or death matter.
Our family doctor practiced medicine in his home. He made house calls to families with no transportation and accepted patients on a first come, first served basis. My first and only visit to him was to have a carbuncle on a leg cut open and bandaged at age nine. I received my first physical exam as a military volunteer at age 18.
My first encounter with a professional health care worker occurred at age four. The county health nurse visited our farm to give small pox vaccinations. I had advance warning and kept a close watch. When I saw her green sedan approaching, I broke into a run and hid under the house. I put up a rukus but it lasted only long enough for my mother to grab a leg and pull me out. After a switching, I was ready to get “shot” like all other kids were required to do.
Vick’s salve, homemade cough syrup, coal oil and sugar are some of the home remedies that kept us kids going during the cold, winter months. Medicine time came at bedtime. Our throats and chests got bathed in Vick’s salve. A spoonful of sugar saturated with a few drops of coal oil was used to ward off the croup. A treatment for bronchitis was a chest poultice of Vick’s salve and bacon grease. A spoonful of castor oil or cod liver oil was usually a quick cure for anyone feeling puny and wanting stay home from school.
Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.