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How do you make a Phillips’ Screwdriver? By mixing vodka and Milk of Magnesia.
I was reminded of this (bad) joke the other day when my son took a nasty tumble off his bike and came home with a bloody and scraped up knee. He had a shower and put some Polysporin on it while my husband and I explained how our generation’s parents had dealt with abrasions – Mercurochrome.
Anyone under the age of 50 probably won’t remember the bright orangey-red badge of honour that showcased our latest boo-boo to all the other neighbourhood kids. Just like Milk of Magnesia (that tasted like minty chalk) many tinctures of our youth are hard, if not impossible, to find today. Applied with an eyedropper from a small glass bottle, the antiseptic fluid didn’t sting but did have an odd metallic smell and, from my memory, did absolutely nothing to help healing. But hey, it looked pretty cool.
If Mom was out of Mercurochrome, there was always iodine. Less dramatic than the neon-hued alternative, iodine was the exact colour of HP Sauce which made it the less desirable treatment. It just didn’t have the same ‘ooh’ factor.
Both products have fallen out of use as topical treatments for cuts and scrapes, Mercurochrome primarily for its mercury content once the American Food and Drug Administration tightened the rules in the 1970s.
The Montreal Children’s Hospital advises against using pretty much all the things our mothers used to use, stating they, “… they do little good and cause stinging.”
Mom always said the sting meant it was working. Hunh.
Somehow we survived those barbaric treatments just as we survived using toothpaste from metal tubes that may or may not have contained lead.
In removing the toxins, carcinogens and overall sharp objects of our childhood products, many internet conspiracy theorists (including one I’m related to) insist the new formulas just don’t work as well as the old ones do.
My brother swears the original Magic Eraser was a much tougher and better product until the emails started circulating that a) it contained formaldehyde and b) kids were burning themselves by rubbing the product on their skin. Now, if a kid is dumb enough to rub something on his or her skin until it hurts then maybe it should be considered a ‘teaching moment’ but I digress. Apparently it was enough of a public relations issue that the product, like many others, was dumbed down.
Head and Shoulders shampoo used to be the go-to remedy for hair mishaps. If your hair dye was too dark or your home permanent was too frizzy, you could count on the opaque turquoise concoction to remove both the colour and the curl. Now that it comes in 21 different scents it may be more market friendly but its original superpowers have been reduced.
I recently had exposed skin burnt to a crisp when I hazarded to go outside in the sunlight, mistakenly believing that by spending most of the day under an umbrella, I would be okay.
“This is me in the shade,” I told my family later. “Imagine me in the sun.”
I can't help it. As someone born in the dead of winter in the middle of the night, I'm composed of 90 per cent water. And 10 per cent moonlight.
The burn led me on a quest to find the one tried and true sunburn remedy I'd grown up with – Noxzema.
It took a bit of searching. The 20-something pharmacist had never heard of it. But proving that it was listed ‘in stock’ on their webpage, I was finally able to track down the once ubiquitous product on the lower shelf aided by a clerk who was much closer to my age than the pharmacist’s.
Heading home with my blue-bottled booty, my son Googled the product and informed me that users insisted the parent company had changed the formula and that it just wasn’t the same.
I don’t care. The smell is close enough to what my memory holds and, for a brief moment, despite being burnt and peeling, I was cool.