Got any castor oil in your medicine cabinet?
It was the cure-all in my day. It worked miracles when us kids were sick. When Mom got out the castor oil, all of a sudden, we felt better. One taste would be enough. Ugh! If not that, a good smearing of Vicks all over your chest would cure you.
Folks had all sorts of remedies, mostly handed down from family lore. Garlic cured a lot of things, even kept the vampires away and everybody else. I remember my dad had his special mixture. I think it was ginger, honey and whiskey. Of course, he felt better.
Seems there were many concoctions being developed that would cure you. Mostly by “doctor or professor so and so” of the medicine shows. The traveling medicine show was one of the main forms of entertainment for the small towns. They would set up in the middle of town and have some kind of act, maybe a sword swallower or magician, anything to attract a crowd.
Once the crowd came, then the doctor would offer his elixir. There would often be a “plant” out in the crowd who would yell out he had used it and he was a “new” man. Maybe another who would rush up to buy the first bottle. Of course, you would need to get them before they sold out. Today’s TV ads often use the same old tactic. Having some celebrity endorse the product or encouraging you to buy it before it is all gone is the same old, same old selling technique.
The term “snake oil salesman” was derived from the selling of so-called cure-alls that had no benefits. The actual snake oil was brought over by the Chinese who worked on the railroads and apparently did help with aches and pains. However, since we did not have the same ingredients, opportunists used other things, which made it worthless.
Now, the term is used to smear one’s reputation. It has been used by politicians during the past several campaigns. I’m sure you will hear it during the next several months.
From the early medicine shows came the patent medicines mostly advertised in magazines and newspapers. These eventually became closely regulated by the FDA. Today, these over-the-counter meds must tell only what they are good for. I don’t think they can use the word cure. They are mostly effective to ease minor ailments.
If all else fails, maybe you can find a sorcerer somewhere to conjure you up a potion to cure whatever. Maybe a love potion if needed. Beware of poison apples. Thankfully, we have knowledgeable doctors to use modern methods and medicines to keep us healthy. And certainly, one of the finest hospitals in the country to serve our needs.
So, parents, if your children say they are too sick to go to school, just bring out a bottle of castor oil and they will hop right out of bed.
Don Hill is a resident of Seymour and has served as a volunteer at Southern Indiana Center for the Arts for more than a quarter of a century. Send comments to [email protected].