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That magic touch

What magic has been developed within the medical field since my baby brother caught pneumonia at the tail end of the Second World War. Dr. Cecil Kimbrough often said that if penicillin had not just been discovered during the war, Billy would not have survived.

Dr. Cecil Kimbrough and Dr. Gerald Williams kept folks mighty healthy down yonder round the county seat, making house calls and all that stuff. I recollect those football physicals Dr. Gerald used to give to us. Weigh you in, listen to the heartbeat, and ask you if you felt like playing. He used to go to all the games before I started suiting up for the team, and I clearly remember quarterback Tommy Short getting knocked on the ground pretty often. Dr. Gerald would stand over him, reach down and pull ol’ Tommy up by his belt several times to get the air flowing, then slap him on the butt and send him back in.

As I already said, we were a fairly healthy bunch of folks down there, but youngsters were obliged to get mumps, chickenpox and one or two strains of the measles, and that’s what we did. Didn’t bother me atall to miss classes, and as near as I can place it, we never had those maladies during the summer time.

Shoot, I’d lie up there in that feather bed, reach over and grab hold of the old radio antenna, and tune in Joe Rumore on the Birmingham station all day. Joe would have Rive and Rave and the Sunny Valley Gang, and that bunch, and Daddy would bring home a dime funny book or two from Little Drug Store. Twas not all that bad of a thing lying up in that bed even when those itchy spots of Chickenpox formed a blister.

You’d think we wouldn’t get company during those bouts with contagious outbreaks, but some mamas would bring their chullun over to get their kid infected and be done with it. Sorta like planning a good time to put the bull in with the cows. Convenient time for getting sick.

There was one other malady I suffered with back then, and that was poison oak. Ma would have me soak in a tub of Clorox water, and then she’d coat me with that danged ol’ pink calamine lotion, after which she stood me in front of the big window fan with my arms stuck out like wings so I would dry. Whoh! I’m itching right now just thinking about those days, and I’ve been immune to poison oak for over 50 years, I’m mighty glad to report, so I’ve had my times with poison oak, chickenpox, measles and the mumps. Lifetime check off.

It almost seems funny thinking back on those childhood ailments, but there was one infirmity back then that was not funny. It was the dread disease infantile paralysis or polio. I never personally knew but about four people who had it, one having to live in an iron lung, and the other three crippled for life. Dr. Jonas Salk came up with the vaccine for polio in the ‘50s, and that is one name I will never forget.

Of all the healing I’ve seen in my fair number of years down here, my mind always comes back to the times I used to get a real bad headache in my eyes from the measles or fever or whatever, and I’d be lying in that feather bed, being pretty miserable right at that moment. My mother would come in to check on me, and I’d say, “Hold my eyes, Ma.” She’d sit by my side, reach over and put her fingers on my aching eyeballs, and before you knew what was what … all was well. That was the magic touch of a mother’s hand.

— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,” appears weekly.

 

(This column originally appeared in the Wednesday, January 16 issue of the Demopolis Times.)