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210614 June 14, 2021


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Fighting Coughs, Colds, and Sore Throats
Tommy Towery
LHS '64 

    This week we move ahead with our memories of the medicines we took way back then and explore the world of medicines we knew to fight common colds, coughs, and sore throats. Again, I remind you of my last week’s statement that I do not remember ever taking a prescribed medicine but relied on over-the-counter cures available at the local drug or grocery store.

    The first item that always comes to my mind when talking about how we combatted coughs back then always turns my thoughts to the cough drops we were administered. The most memorable brand was the Smith Brother’s Cough Drops, and specifically the wild cherry flavored ones. Many of us felt the drops were more candy than medicine, and we may have been right. Whatever the case, I do not remember anyone ever putting up much resistance when they were handed one of the little red “specifically medicated” drops. 

    Who could ever forget the logo of the two bearded brothers who adorned the white box in which they were sold. The company began packaging drops in branded boxes in 1872. To distinguish their package from imitators, the bearded brothers created a logo featuring their portraits and stamped it on their boxes. It is odd, but the wild cherry flavored drops were not introduced until1948.

    When eating candy was prohibited in classrooms, it was always acceptable to pop a cough drop in your mouth for medicinal purposes – sometimes one after the other until the box was empty. 

    I was talking to Sue and told her I seemed to remember a licorice flavored cough drop and with a little research on the internet I found out my memory had not failed me. They did exist and were also sold by Smith Brothers.

    Vicks also had their own offering for medicated cough drops and were probably my second most popular version of cough drops, but did not match the sweet flavor of the Wild Cherry Smith Brothers’ version.

    The other brand I remember was Luden’s. Those cough drops were menthol flavored and tasted more like I though medicine would taste like. If I ever took one of those it was because I was really sick and looking for some relief rather than just a piece of candy.

    My memory of sore throat relief was a box of Sucrets. Though they tasted a little mediciney to me, but they had another point in their favor - they came in that cute little tin box which always ended up in my possession when the tablets were gone. I found it funny that I still remembered them being individually wrapped in foil paper and not all just crammed in a box like cough drops. I found it a little funny how the commercial at the top says you can even smoke when you take them. Isn't that one of the major causes of coughs and sore throats? Guess they sold more that way.

    Vicks seemed to have been a leader in combatting cold symptoms back then. Besides their cough drops, Vicks offered nasal inhalers (1941), Vicks Vapor Rub (Salve)  (1911) to rub on your chest, and Vicks cough syrup. Remember sticking one of those inhalers up your nose? Does anyone still do that? The syrup we took was introduced in 1951 and was a new version of their 1931 syrup. In 1958 we saw “Vicks 44” cough syrup and immediately it became a hit. 

    Sue said her family relied on another brand of cough syrup. While I don’t remember the taste, I do remember the name of Creomulsion. It lists its ingredients as “Beechwood creosote, Cascara Bark, Ipecac Root, Menthol, White Pine Bark, Wild Cherry Bark, and Contains no narcotics.” That sounds like a woodpecker’s or termite’s buffet to me. 

    But I can never forget one home remedy which always puzzled me when I was a child. Although my grandmother was almost a tee-totaler she was known to brew up a concoction to battle sore throats and colds. She would take a small amount of whiskey and dissolve as much rock candy in it as possible to administer to her family patients. I never knew this was a home version of “Rock and Rye” although I have known that term for most of my life I think. “Rock” candy and “Rye” whiskey! 

    I searched the internet again and found “Oddly enough, rock and rye’s first role was as medicine. By the late 1870s, virtually every pharmacy in the nation was stocking their shelves with some proprietary recipe, often promoted as a sort of cough syrup.  As a medicine, rock and rye was taxed at a lower rate than liquor, adding to the potential profit. In 1883, the drink was finally reclassified as a distilled spirit. A drink of rye whiskey sweetened with rock candy and perhaps some fruits and bitter herbs, Rock and Rye was once believed to be a cure-all for the common cold. So famous were the phlegm-fighting qualities of the drink in days gone by that children used to be given rock-and-rye-flavored cough drops at the first sign of hacking and whooping.”

    So, I will now turn it over to you. What are your memories of cures you were administered when you came down with a cold or sore throat?

Cold and sore throat remedies?

        Memphis, TN - We continue with the contents of our medicine cabinets back before we graduated. Thanks to those classmates who shared their own memories of pain killers when they were growing up. Please continue to share your own stories. They might be the key to a long long memory of a former classmate.

Pain Reliever Memories from Last Week's Topic

Cecilia LeVan Watson, LHS '68 , "My Granny use to send me to the little store and get a Stanback.. it came in single dose . She would put it in a glass of water. It seemed to work instantly. I always wondered what was in that stuff."

Randy Goodpasture, LHS '66, "I remember Stanback’s catch phrase was 'Snapback with Stanback'”

Joel Weinbaum, LHS '64, "Interestingly, the early tablet size was described in "grains(GRS)" vs. "mg," as today. And powders meant more than one powder ingredient. The bark of the weeping willow tree was boil down by native Americans for the acedelcylic(sp) acid benefit(aspirin). acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) hc9h7o4"

Nell Rose Brooks Brackett, LHS '71,"I remember Aspergum. My mother would give it to me if I had a headache. I loved it! It had an orange flavor"

Rick Simmons, LHS '64, "Excedrin."