It’s flu season. It strikes terror into our hearts until we know what type they know it is and adjust the medicine to treat it.
Once upon a time your illness was just a cold although a lung-basting cold that would in our times qualify as the worst ever seen—or heard. Flu is worse and we have to cope and we were cured. If a cold/flu was thought to be coming on preventive-precautions were very often to be prepared or taken off great-grandmother’s pantry shelf to be wrestled into the throat of the thought-to-be sufferer.
The following ideas were taken from a “reminiscence” written many years ago by the late Fay Landis who was helpful in giving us many memories of the early days of the most northern tier of townships of Whiteside County, those that adjoin Carroll. We are grateful for the efforts that went into the “memoir,” a broad, varied prospective!
“Can you believe it? They had a cure for coughs, colds, hoarseness and all diseases of the throat and lungs? If you used it you’d never need to have your tonsils out. The feller sed if you used ground up orange peel with a couple drops of iodine on it it was a cure for goiter. It’s funny that a lot of people believed they suddenly had a goiter. (DO NOT try any of these old-fashioned homemade remedies, so-called.)
“Also many a young shiek bought some hickory nut cream to plaster his hair down. Some of the old-timers called them ‘plastered nuts.’
The early settlers made their own drinks. They didn’t have imported coffees or Japan teas so they roasted wheat, rye, burnt potatoes, bread—all for coffee. Today they call it postum (!) and it contained no caffeine. Our neighbors drank rye coffee. They’d roast it in the cook stove oven (coal or wood falled). It smelled deliciously tempting. They’d grind it in a coffee grinder.
For tea they’d dry penny royal, sassafras, peppermint, catnip leaves and dried elderberry blossoms. Yes, I’ve drank hot elderberry tea for a cold many a time before going to bed.
They also made wine and whiskey.
“Whiskey was used as a solvent for medicine as well as for a disinfectant. Drink some distilled hot whiskey and raisins before going to bed and as the medicine show barker said— ‘It will kill any bug in your system.’”
Medicine shows were a favorite entertainment as well as stocking up on specialty “medications.” Here’s Mrs. Landis’ memory of them.
“Medicine shows always had cure-alls to sell plus entertainment to get you there and get you in a good mood. Saw one as a neighbor boy if he was hungry. The boy expecting something delicious to eat sed, “Yes.” The man sed, “I thought so, pulling a long string of wieners from beneath the bib of his overalls. Oh, my was that boy shocked as the crowd roared. The boy looked under the feller’s bib in disbelief.
“Now you courtin’ age scallowags don’t laugh so hard, and he asked one if he asked if he was married and he shook his head. The medicine man pulled a diaper and a baby bottle full of milk out of his pocket. The boy’s face was sure red that he was the subject of so much good-natured kidding.
“One show sold Krugon as an elixir tonic. Almost everyone bought several bottles. Think everyone who bought a bottle made a trip next morning to visit Maude Jones. People really thought it worked (!).
“Another show had Kickapoo Indian Sagwa made from roots, herbs and bark that was to purify your blood and cure all diseases of the stomach, liver and kidneys. Most thought it tasted like vermifuge which was positively repulsive like other worm medicine. The taste would kill any worm and you thought you’d die from it. You couldn’t die because you were too sick.
The Kickapoo Indian salve was for cuts, bruises and burns. It was so healing that one old timer said it would mend the crack in the barn door.”
Visits to the doctor or a home call from him; yes, there were those, were not a common practice but once in a while necessary.
Today we see a variety of practitioners, all levels of training. Many of them can give you a flu shot. Have you received yours yet? Don’t use the “homemade” kind. Please!