Monday, February 28, 2011

Life, Such As It Was



I was reading a very good piece of childhood reminiscence, by Knucklehead, and got to thinking that I should be able to get at least 1,200 words out of much the same sort of stuff. So, always willing to boldly go where everybody else has gone before, here's the result.

Let's start with the comment I left over at Knucklehead's place, in response to his story of playground injury...

We grew up tough. I remember loads of injuries on the playground, and all of them that gushed blood were slathered with Mercurochrome. I think that stuff is illegal now, but My Mom swore by it.

"Jimmy, I'm going to paint your leg with toxin and send you back out to play. First, though, have some whole milk with raw eggs mixed in. Have to keep up your strength!"


For those not familiar with it, this is Mercurochrome.




Notice the lovely color? As you might have guessed from the name, it contained mercury. Yup. Moms all across the nation were swabbing open wounds with a concoction made from stuff now well-known to cause brain damage, kidney failure, and birth defects. Wheeeeeee!


(As MY WIFE often opines when she considers the amount of lead paint chips she ate during her childhood, I wonder what sort of an Einstein I might have been had I not had every open wound filled with a medicine containing a substance which if found in a tuna causes the tuna to be unfit for putting in a can. Sorry, Charlie!)

If your mom didn't keep Mercurochrome in stock, the usual treatment was Iodine. That stuff was always a joy. You touched it to a cut and the kid with a boo-boo would jump four feet vertically. While assuredly more effective than Mercurochrome as an antiseptic, it didn't leave a gory red stain on your skin and was thus not as desirable for boys who liked the effect of having their various battle scars heightened. Of course, it did leave a dark purple stain (unless your mother was one of those who put a band-aid on top of everything, in which case you ripped it off as soon as you were able so that all of your friends could see how magnificently crippled you had become during your latest adventures.)

(By the way, I just now found out that Iodine can explode unexpectedly when mixed with ammonia and water.

Kid: "See that big purple spot on Johnny's leg? I heard that if you pee on it, he'll blow up!"

Other Kid: "Cool! Hey, Johnny, come here!"

[unzips fly as Johnny walks over]

Johnny: "Hey! What the..."

*BOOM*)

I mentioned raw eggs and whole milk before. My Mom, and almost every other mom in our neighborhood, thought those were wonderfully nutritious ingredients in a pre-school breakfast. More mornings than not, I used to get a raw egg or two stirred into a tall glass of milk, a little chocolate syrup added, and it was called an eggnog. When other folks were retching while watching the scene in Rocky where Sly Stallone gulps down a glass full of raw eggs, I was feeling pangs of nostalgia. Salmonella? What's that?

Lunch was also loaded with vitaminous goodity. My Mom often packed a cream cheese and jelly sandwich for me to ingest while at school. Just to be sure there was no chance of anything remotely healthy entering my body, I usually insisted she cut off the crust. A big thermos jug full of whole milk accompanied that meal, along with a handful of cookies or, if I was really trying to watch the calories, a bag of Fritos.

More cookies and milk, or whoopie pies, or maybe some very healthy crackers and cheese (American cheese! Of course it's good for you! What are you, some kind of communist?) would suffice to tide me over until dinner, so long as I didn't ruin my appetite and had room for my fried pork chops and mashed potatoes. You have to have meat with every dinner or else you'll grow up all weak and sissified. And potatoes are... well, they're potatoes, and what else are we going to do with the gravy if we don't have any potatoes to pour it on? Just so the entire meal won't be brown, here are some canned wax beans. Yum!

(I had MY WIFE read this to see if she thought I should add anything. She said, "Those are the things you were eating when I met you, and you still eat the same things now!"

Well, yeah. I never said I didn't like it, did I?)

Among the other things we were fed, and that are now generally considered to be slow-acting poisons, were margarine and lard. Margarine was made from vegetables! Well, vegetable oil, in any case, and that certainly couldn't be bad for you, could it? Spread it thick on that white bread. Lard, on the other hand, just plain made everything taste better, and you were eating pork chops, anyway, so why shouldn't the chocolate layer cake have some pig in it? We topped it off with another huge glass of wholesome whole milk because we wanted to grow up to be big and strong like Dad, who was in the living room chain-smoking unfiltered Camels.

(And, if second-hand smoke is all that bad for you, I should have had seven different kinds of cancer by the time I was eighteen with all the smoke-filled kitchens and parlors I hung out in when I was growing up. The relatives who didn't smoke were the oddballs. I had to be inhaling the equivalent of half-a-pack a day whenever we visited the Sullivan side of my family. I'd ask some of them for further information to verify that statement, but they're all dead now. Who knows? Maybe I am, too, by the time you read this. Woo-Hoo!)

Well, I suppose I could go on and on (maybe I already have) but I've given detail before about eating raw hamburger scraped with my fingers from a store's grinder, hitching a ride on a freight train and walking home on subway tracks, falling through the ice while playing hockey on the Neponset River, and playing baseball on asphalt (including sliding on the stuff), so that should prove something about the sort of childhood I had. Maybe that Mercurochrome had more of an effect on my brain than I've ever given it credit for.

Soon, with more better stuff.

VERY IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER

My Mom is a wonderful person, highly intelligent, and full of love for me. She was all of those things during my childhood, also. I wouldn't have traded a single lard-filled whoopee pie if it meant I'd live for an extra five years. Anyway, NOBODY knew any better then. And, rest assured, this is the same sort of stuff some current snot-nosed kid will be telling his peers forty years from now, on some electronic media we haven't even thought of yet, concerning arugula, bean sprouts, and soy milk. It's all good.


40 comments:

KLo said...

Priceless :-)

I myself hated milk (the only way to get me to drink milk was with the old "milk and cookies for after school snack" thing). Today, they probably would make up for my calcium/Vitamin D needs in a tablet form ...

I am feeling very nostalgic right now, and I'm only 34 ;-)

The Broad said...

'Red Meddy' that's what my Mom called it. She still had a bottle in her couple until a couple of years ago when she said she couldn't find it any more. You will never guess where I found it and can buy it to this day ... France. It's still red, but I don't know if it's still got mercury in it! We used to get the same egg nog as you -- when we were sick, only no chocolate syrup, instead a teaspoon of sugar and the top sprinkled with cinnamon. Here in the UK the best fish and chip shops use lard. And the past few years all good cooks roast their potatoes in duck or goose fat.

Gaston Studio said...

Oh man, I so remember that red stuff stinging like crazy when my cuts and scrapes were doused!

haphazardlife said...

I loved mecurochrome. The whole red stain was the best. Mom would paint on flowers or hearts and such...

Had she only known she was slowly killing me. Hmmm. Maybe she did.

Actually with all the "dangers" we faced on a daily basis, I'm surprised any of us survived to tell the tale.

- Jazz

Quirkyloon said...

Ah! The good ole' days! I remember feeling jealous of those red-stains and why I never got any! I think my Mom was too enamored of the stinging iodine to consider anything less painful as effective.

Great and fun post Sir Sul!

Lora said...

Mercury in open wounds...Man! I was born too late and missed all the fun! lol

Uncle Skip, said...

You remember your mom slathering that stuff on you. I remember having it slathered on me in the emergency room. My mom used merthiolate, which was about the same color. But more often she'd just wash out a wound with hydrogen peroxide. It was almost fun to watch it bubble. I don't think we even had any iodine in the house because everyone knew it was poison. Dad kept that out in the garage because he knew anything that stung that much had to work good at killing germs.

Cricket said...

Heh, heh... yep. Gotcha.

Mercurochrome... gotta love it. My Grampa had tins of white and red lead. You mixed it with, I think, linseed oil to make paint? Some kind of oil, anyway, probably toxic.

Don't forget the DDT. There was a big bag of that, too. I got myself completely covered in DDT dust out in that garage. You could also mix that with oil and spray it on the garden with an old pump sprayer.

As far as the eggs go, coincidentally, I read somewhere recently that all the problems with raw eggs are new. Before the late 70s/early 80s, salmonella bacteria wee only on the shell. Then, a mutant strain developed that can pass through the shell, thus all the warnings.

Remember steak tartare?

Snappy Di said...

This is soooo funny. I ate all the same junk you did. No cancer here yet either.

You still eat green beans from the can? LOL Are you kidding me?

DI

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Hey, thanks for the mention.

I remember something like that, but I don't remember it being called mercurochrome. For some reason, the word "menthiolade" or something like that sounds familiar. Anyway, Mom slathered on our wounds and it stung like hell.

Great tale, Sully. "Vitaminous goodity" was brilliant.

Michelle H. said...

I remember good old iodine, but not mercurochrome. Also the good ol' backing soda-water patches for bee stings. My mother also had the can of lard, as well as the can of weeks' old (or perhaps months' old) bacon grease in the large coffee can. Ah... those were the days...

messymimi said...

In my Sweetie's words, potatoes and rice are just the excuse you need because it is socially unacceptable to drink gravy.

Same with bread being the excuse to eat butter.

Yes, i remember the rest of this stuff, too, although we never ate the raw eggs unless they were in the cake batter or cookie dough.

Craig said...

I remember mercurochrome, but then when I read Skip's comment above, I'm pretty sure that merthiolate was my parents' antiseptic of choice. That made a kind of neon-pinkish-orange stain. For the really nasty stuff, Dad broke out the iodine from his private stash. Your account of how it made you jump four feet in the air is about right, except that I remember it being more like ten feet. If I'd kept a stash of iodine on hand, I'm sure I could've dunked. . .

Now, we just use peroxide on our kids. The bubbles are just too cool. . .

I think my dad must've been one of the first guys in the US whose doctor had him watching his cholesterol. Heck, I remember back around the time the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan (from the house we were living in at the time), our family drank only skim milk, and no butter.

But maybe there's something to it - Dad is heading toward his 89th b-day, and both his brothers died before they were 60. . .

If I Were God... said...

Enjoyable throughout, but the best lines were the last. Every generation looks down upon and laughs at the ones before. Part of the march of progress is trampling on the past.

I'm waiting for the forthcoming discovery that tofu and wheatgrass are bad for you -besides causing douchery, which we already know about.

Buck said...

Mercurochrome: check.

Iodine: check.

Second hand smoke: check.

Lard: check. Hell, DOUBLE-check. My former in-laws of the Hispanic persuasion still consume it by the five-pound tub. You can't make REAL refried beans without it... accept NO substitutes!

It's a wonder we lived through it all, ain't it? ;-)

slommler said...

And the moral of the story...we grew up and started families and survived the 40's and 50's and some of us, the 60's. We survived without the EPA, and the like. We survived!!
Hugs
SueAnn

Daryl said...

Just this past Friday whilst whiling away the hours in the ED(formerly the ER) I wondered if they still did Fluoroscopes which are as old as Mercurochrome.

Barbara Shallue said...

It's a wonder any of us have survived this long, isn't it? I loved smearing mercurochrome on my scrapes (we called it 'monkey blood')and one of our favorite activities was riding our bikes in the fog behind the mosquito man. Fun times!
My mom says the thing about cigarette smoke back then (I had the same experience - everyone smoked!) is that the houses weren't sealed as tight. Hmmm...

Christina LMT said...

You want lard? Try goose lard, Schmalz, smeared on bread like butter and eaten with relish (no, not the pickle kind, the enjoyment kind).

German cooking...if it's not lard, it's butter, pass the salt and gravy, please. And don't forget the potatoes with every meal.

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

Just the other day I cut and pasted an email about butter... and why it's good for you... into my blog. Then again maybe it was why margarine is bad for you?

Oh and I remember the grade school I went to had home plate for the baseball diamond painted on the asphalt next to the dirt so they wouldn't have to worry about anyone stealing it while school was out. We really hated sliding.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Not only did we eat lard, my grandmother kept the "fat can" in the fridge that she'd scrape a big glob of hardened random fat from in order to cook the next round of bacon or scrambled eggs with bologna (smothered in katchup of course). Cuts only got Bacitracin in our house. The vertical jumping ensued with that stuff too.

Red Hamster said...

...we wanted to grow up to be big and strong like Dad, who was in the living room chain-smoking unfiltered Camels... I've got to stop reading your blog at work; this time I almost peed my pants.

You're right on with that disclaimer...what goes around comes around again. Current health advice is to drop margarine and go back to real butter from pasture-fed cows. We did, and that butter is delicious; the taste is worth every day it takes off our lives. :)

Moannie said...

Ah! All the colours of my childhood.Orange iodine, red Mercurochrome and purple Gentian Violet. Got a terrible burn from iodine once, turned septic too, but that was my tomboy time and I was a heroine for a day.

Nice one Jim.

thepowmill said...

You never mention an upset stomach...for fear of Extract of wild strawberry ...which made you throw up ...get it over and done with was Mum's thinking .

Angela Christensen said...

As always, a fine read. Funny, I had the same thought about my husband you recorded as coming from YOUR WIFE: He ate that stuff when I met him and he still eats that same stuff. Oh, and THAT CHICKEN, of course. ;)

Angela Christensen said...

Oh, hey, you know what I just thought of? My mom had a golden bottle of some morphine-based thing called paregoric. It was some kind of anti-emetic, and had a charming effect one might call 'soporific' if that didn't sound so perfectly harmless. You used to be able to buy it over the counter in drug stores, probably sort of like Sherlock Holmes could drop in at teh druggist's for a nice dose of cocaine or laudanum. You're right: it's a miracle we made it to our advanced ages!

Hilary said...

Oh does that bring back memories. The Mercurochrome didn't sting, if I recall but the Iodine sure did. I remember having chicken pox at age 3 and the doctor telling my mother to give me my own bottle of Mercurochrome so that I could paint the pox every time one itched. It was supposed to keep me preoccupied so that I wouldn't scratch. A whole bottle! I was painted from head to toe. It explains much...

J. Johnson said...

I remember much about those days, the lead paint I'm surrounded me in each room occupied in my youth, and on nearly everything that had any paint on it at all (the 70's became the dark ages for any wooden surfaces).

I remember iodine, which I always figured was my parents way of pointing out how stupid it was to have done whatever crazy thing I did that caused the wound. It was as if they thought that causing MORE pain in the healing process it would deter me from any further folly.

Does anyone else remember Spec-T lozenges? I would go until I couldn't swallow Jello with a sore throat to avoid having to take them...they literally not only made me cry like a girl, but made me want to hurl. Obviously, the parental way of thinking is that if healing it hurt worse than getting it, it must be good.

However, with all the lead paint, second hand smoke, butter, lard, iodine, mercurochrome and the like, what I DO cherish from my childhood was the ability to exercise imagination... something not often seen in the youth of today.

You played OUTSIDE (because the tv wasn't allowed to be on until at least dinner time (and always positioned so the adults could see it but the children could not), you had friends that met you OUTSIDE to play, and you built forts, teepees, caught minnows and crawdads out of the creek, you climbed trees and explored old piles of rubble from delapidated buildings (once bring a piece of it home with you - walking blocks on the side of your foot to avoid pushing that board with the nail in it any further inside the arch of your foot)...

I honestly have no regrets from my childhood... if it shortens my life on the backside, so be it, at least I still know how to build forts and teepees. Sometimes perhaps, ignorance is bliss.

Clare Dunn said...

Read this yesterday, still laughing today.

I, too, love "Vitaminous Goodity". Excellent Phraseology!

And I, too, lived through all of the above...with an Italian Mama, who didn't beccome acquainted with Mercurochrome until I was old enough to refuse to be painted. (My sibs were not so lucky!)

Loved this post!

xoxoxo, cd

Suldog said...

Jenn - Oh, damn it... I forgot all about the can of fat. We had one, too. Every time bacon or anything that produced grease got cooked, the can got filled a bit more. Oog.

cath said...

I was smart enough to know better...I stayed inside and read and let my sister be tortured with Mercurochrome, Merthiolate, and whatever else mom decided to slather on her. It was always fun to watch her scream in pain.

Suldog said...

Oh, God, Angela - PAREGORIC! I forgot about that, too. I think it's main purpose was to make you poop more easily, or maybe it was supposed to make you stop pooping. One or the other. Whatever it was, I was dosed with that a few times in my life, too. No wonder I did drugs. I was raised on opiates! :-)

Anonymous said...

Is the paregoric you are talking about the same thing we used to give babies when they were fussy to calm them down? I believe my Dr said to give it to them That was like 55 years ago.

Craig said...

Jen used to rub paregoric on our kids' gums when they were teething (and that's within the last 15-20 years). . .

Karen said...

We used to eat cream cheese & jelly sandwiches, too. I'd forgotten about them. They were so good. I think I'll have one for lunch today! During the summer, we'd dig tar out of the roads that had softened because of the heat and chew it like gum. Ick!

Eddie Bluelights said...

I was an iodine kid - Mercury was unknown to me other than being one of the planets.
As for eating raw eggs!! yum! yum! . . .and Salmonella stood no chance . . . almost unheart of. What is it about today with all the mollycoddling ?

We are still hobbling along, no worse for wear, albeit with very little we started out with!! LOL Artificial Hips, False Teeth, Crowns, Bridges, artificial heart valves!! LOL
Nice post ~ Eddie

lime said...

oh yeah, i remember getting dabbed with mercurochrome. i'm am totally using that as my new excuse for any brain fried moment i have or any mistake i make. it's all the "mercurochrome in my childhood." thanks for the out!

Ruth and Glen said...

What a great reminiscence of our childhood. I can also remember addding some iodine to a bottle of baby oil, slathering it all over us at the beach, and getting the greatest tan! Well, I guess it wasn't a tan afterall and we dumb teenagers were just dying our skin. :o)~

~Ruth~

Jeni said...

Other than your having fallen through the ice into the river water, the majority of your growth period pretty much matches mine and I'm still kicking at age 66 now. Okay, not kicking as high as I once did but moving, at any rate. And I consider that all good -as were the things of our childhood!

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