In rural Virginia in the 1940s and 50s, calling a doctor home or going to a hospital could be difficult. Many parents used old-fashioned home remedies to deal with their children’s ailments.
As part of our occasional Oral History series, Robbie Harris has this retrospective.
Jessica Taylor is an Assistant Professor of Oral and Public History at Virginia Tech. She sat down with people from some of the oldest Blacksburg, Virginia families in the Prices Fork area. She asked them what the school was like then and how the healthcare system worked when they were in school.
“Well, there was always some kind of elixir somewhere and plenty of rest,” said Joyce Slusser.
Palmer Price recalls that his parents would “put a drop of lamp oil on a spoonful of sugar” and swallow it. “Remember it?”
“It was because of a sore throat,” Slusser intervenes. “And horehound candies and whiskey. My mother had a small glass of whiskey and a Horehound candy stick. It was really hard when it went down. If you had a cough she would give you a teaspoonful of it and it was awful. ”
Price laughs, “I grew up before I found out you couldn’t go to bed without Vick’s volley rubbing yours
That brought a knowing laugh from the group who came to tell their stories, including Ronnie Alls, who remembers his parents giving him mustard plasters for measles.
“As far as I know it was just a rag with mustard and they taped it right on the back and I have no idea why.” Joyce Slusser remembers that too. “I think this is more than just mustard.”
“Yes, there was.” Says Palmer Price.
Nobody could remember what it was.
However, Jessica Taylor says, “Parents from this era were very supportive of the latest science on childhood illnesses they couldn’t treat at home. Measles and polio vaccines were distributed in schools back then. Wythe County, southwest Virginia, had the worst pros – Head outbreak in EU country. ”
Slusser remembers “going to the health department in Christiansburg and taking polio recordings.
“Was that where everyone was going?
Some people nodded yes.
Phyllis Price recalls: “Standing in line with all the kids in this church. I went to first grade in that brick building across the street and they marched us all over to that church and we went into the basement and went through these lines and they put us on polio vaccine. ”
“Years later,” she adds, we went to Blacksburg High School, which they pulled down along Main Street, and got sugar cubes with the polio vaccine. Do you remember that? “
And people seemed to know about the idea of ”herd immunity” when it came to infectious diseases. “Back then we had measles and mumps and chicken pox.” Says Slusser. “It wasn’t for a family to come into your house so their children could be exposed and it was over on purpose.”
And again the call and the answer; “Remember it?” Followed by Uh-Huhs and nods of the head.
“Well, what’s that scar we all have? I mean, each of us has a scar on our left arm” by these Vacines.
Childhood vaccinations are strong memories for many people, and parents were determined to keep their children safe.
“They said we go over here and you get this!”
And Ronnie Alls remembers the parent’s slogan. “You will not feel any pain!”
That was Joyce Slusser, Palmer Price, and Ronnie Alls, and Phyliss Price, who remembered Virginia Tech’s Oral History Project.
VT Stories is a project at Virginia Tech that has collected more than 200 oral stories since it began in 2016.
*** Editor’s Note: Radio IQ is a Virginia Tech service.