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Winter Colds and Other Ailments

Country at HeartUnfortunately, just like clockwork, we kids could expect to get sick during the long, cold, Southern winters. Now, this may sound morbid, but I looked forward to illness better than I looked forward to going to work. Illness was the lesser of the two "evils." And as I think about it, seems like childhood illnesses weren't as taxing on the body as grown-up sicknesses. That could be because with the passing of time, I've just simply forgotten what it was like to be sick.

At any rate, we could expect to "catch" a cold, and this "demon" brought along its cousins: chills, fevers, coughs, sore throats, stuffy heads, blocked sinuses, runny nose ... and on and on. No matter what medicines we took, these unwelcome intruders hung around until they had outlived their usefulness. It was as though colds had a time frame, and no matter how much camphor we used for decongestion or Vick Vapor rub we saturated our little bodies with, if the cold's time wasn't up, it simply did not leave. You're probably thinking, "She was a little strange, but at least she's still alive and apparently well." So true!

In addition to colds and flu, seems like the cold weather that appeared to lower our immune systems also dumped on us other illnesses during winter: mumps, chicken pox, measles, earaches, and the whooping cough. I say that, because whenever we were sick, normally, it was during cooler seasons when we also had to stay inside anyway.

For earaches, Mother poured warmed sweet oil into our ear. For measles, she oiled our bodies so our skin wouldn't itch so badly, and we were instructed not to scratch. The same advice for chicken pox. We were told that if we scratched our skin, the healed sores would become "craters" on the skin. Fortunately, non of us have any visible signs of any of our childhood diseases. Then, for mumps, we ate sardines, then rubbed the oil on our swollen throats. For colds and flu, my dad sometimes bought drug store medicines like Zero l0 and 666. Remember those? But usually (for colds) we used homemade herbal tea (mullein, pine needles, lemon, and cow dung). For other illnesses, my grandmother made Jimson weed and Sassafras teas and Mother bought Syrup of Black Draught for cleaning the stomach.

mullein tea 

Photo: iStockphoto.com/HeikeRau

The year I had the whooping cough, my dad bought some kind of strange-tasting medicine for me at the drug store. Finally, I stopped coughing.

So there you have the history of the sickly little Williams clan.