As I sit here snivelling with a head cold that I’ve picked up since returning from a 3 week caravan holiday, it jolted my memory about other childhood diseases. The common cold is one of those things that we all seem to get from time to time. Many say they have the ‘flu’ or influenza when really it is just a cold. There are no aches and pains, just a sore throat, sneezing and a runny nose! It will get better.
I have had some of the childhood diseases that were around in the 1950s and 60s. My memories of these infections were waking up one morning and mum had us all line up in front of her while she checked behind our ears.
That was the day we had all come down with the measles. I don’t think I was of school age, but we were all told to go ‘back to bed’, ‘back to bed’, ‘back to bed’. Three of us that I can recall had measles at the same time, Peter, Bobbo and myself. I’m not sure about Garry. He was older than us and maybe he got it first. My memory of having the measles was barley water to drink and the lights covered with newspaper as measles can cause blindness.
Another disease was the mumps and chicken pox. I was not so lucky as I got both these at the same time. We were on holiday at our beach camp at Half-Way Bay, for the Christmas school holidays, I was very young, maybe 6 or 7 and all I can remember is how sore my throat was. My neck was all puffed up and swollen. I used to love eating Weetbix out of my pink plastic plate! (I can always remember that pink plate.) But there was no way I could eat my Weetbix, no matter how much milk or water mum put on it to water it down. It still hurt! Having chicken pox at the same time, wasn’t much fun either as I remember mum covering me with calamine lotion. One of the chicken pox on my chest got infected and every night mum would cover it with a hot poultice to draw out the gunk. To this day, I have a scar where that nasty critter was.
I used to get tonsillitis a lot, in fact, I’m sure I got it every time I went to Geraldton to stay with my grandmother (nanna Herbert) as I remember being given nice juicy oranges to eat. Nanna used to roll the oranges on the table until they were really soft so I could suck out the juice, then I’d eat the flesh. She would also make jelly and icecream, at least that was something I could eat that didn’t hurt. I never did have my tonsils out and eventually grew out of getting infections.
Fortunately, we never got polio. I always remember being told as kids not to play anywhere near the toilet, which was in the backyard and the sewerage was in a big cement tank buried in the ground behind it. If we played there, we could get polio. So we steered clear. I have a good friend who had polio as a child and one of my uncles also had polio when he was about 8.
I remember being given vaccines for diphtheria, polio, whooping cough, rubella and tetanus. If my memory serves me correctly, we were jabbed on the forearm with about 4-6 tiny needles to test for tuberculosis and if they didn’t change colour or get raised within 48 hours, we didn’t have it. The polio vaccine was some pink concoction given to us on a plastic spoon. The smallpox vaccine was also given in the arm and would turn into a yuk sore before it got a scab on it. It didn’t look nice for sometime.
When I was at primary school, a bus would come around to the school and park at the front. We would all line up, pull up our sleeves on the left arm and walk through the bus, one by one, while a nurse or doctor would jab us in the arm. Ouch! I hated needles then and I still hate needles today. Everyone behind you would say, did it hurt? Of course it B… hurt! If anyone in front of you cried, that made it even worse as I’m sure it hurt more just by thinking about it!
As for that common cold that seems to catch up with me when I least expect it, my go-to remedy is apple cider vinegar and lots of it throughout the day. If I get really bad, then some honey, garlic and lemon mixed in some warm water helps too.