Old Time Remedy for Upset Stomach
It was simpler in the sixties. For one thing, there were fewer choices. You had a couple of varieties of over-the-counter medicine, not the row after row selections in today's pharmacy.
Back then, whenever we had an upset stomach or the runs, Mom would treat our discomfort with a common product we could buy from the nearby general store. The corner store, that wasn't actually on a corner, served our needs like today's Dollar stores. You could generally find what you really needed without all the frills of the big stores.
The family medicine cabinet held only a few items, the regulars like Mercurochrome and Merthiolate for cuts and scrapes. For burns, we had a small fire extinguisher shaped squeeze bottle of Unguentine spray. If we had the flu or a cold, we used Vick's Vapor Rub in a vaporizer. For stomach problems, we used Coca-Cola syrup, the trusty glass bottle of brown liquid, our cure for most stomach trouble. When our supply ran low, my mother would send us to the store to ask the pharmacist for a refill which he would prepare in a fresh glass bottle with a new label he typed behind the counter.
Mom would send one of us kids out on our bicycles to the nearby variety store just a couple of blocks up the street. The pharmacy was located at the back of the store, raised up a level from the rest of the store. We could see the druggist behind the partition as he typed out labels for prescriptions. Behind the glass, his white coat flapped as he moved moved about clanking away on an old fashioned black typewriter.
Old Fashioned Soda Fountain
The general store carried a variety of household items from bread, shampoo, light bulbs, cosmetics and, of keen interest to us kids, a rack of the latest ten-cent comic books. It was the neighborhood hang out, popular for its soda fountain and grill where they served the best hamburgers. The fountain was the place to go long before fast food restaurants made their way to the island of Key West, Florida and was within walking distance from the elementary school we attended.
At the fountain you could order a Coca Cola in the nickel or dime size served in a real glass with chipped ice. Basking in the aroma of hot dogs turning somersaults on the rotisserie, we waited for our name to be called out by the pharmacist.
There were many times we'd have lunch on the row of red, vinyl covered swivel stools that stretched the length of the side wall. Hamburgers sizzled on a flat grill right before our eyes served on buttered, toasted buns. Enjoyed with an ice cold glass of coke, it made for a fine treat on a tropical day in the Florida Keys.
The Variety Store pharmacy, next to the fountain, was the place where we picked up home remedies whenever a family member was ailing.
The Post Office
Postal services were also available through a small window along the back wall where we mailed our parcels wrapped in brown paper reclaimed from grocery store bags. Before they would accept the package it had to be tied securely with sturdy white cotton string.
Postage stamps for regular mail could be purchased for around four cents.Air mail was a bit more expensive but traveled much faster. Letters to be mailed could be dropped into the mail slot along the back wall next to the pharmacy.
The Remedy from the Pharmacist
If someone in our house had the stomach ache or diarrhea, we'd hop on our bikes and ride to the corner store to fetch a bottle of Coke syrup. After whispering to the pharmacist that someone in the family had the runs, we'd sit at the soda fountain while he prepared the remedy.
We were careful in the store and kept our antics to a minimum, knowing better than to get in trouble, or it would mean bigger trouble when we got home. A scene from our favorite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Mr. Gower, the pharmacist, prepared pills for George Bailey to deliver kept us in line as George got his ears boxed for not delivering them promptly. This reminder of our true mission kept us from dawdling while we were in the store.
Fountain Scene from "It's A Wonderful Life"
Old Fashioned Remedy
From our place on the swivel stools where we sipped our fountain Cokes, we could hear the pharmacist clanking away as he typed out the paper label for the bottle of coke syrup. Soon enough, he would call out our name and present us with a small white bag containing the old fashioned remedy. It was a concentrated solution of Coke syrup with no carbonation.
We’d pay the cashier at the front of the store while eyeballing the assortment of nickel candy bars and comic books, then, hop back on our bikes and peddle as fast as our legs would go, clutching the package like a bag of gold.
The Patient with the Stomach Ache
Once we arrived home with the remedy, Mom would send someone to the silverware drawer to fetch a tablespoon. Armed with the bottle of coke syrup, spoon in hand, she would ascend the stairs to the bedroom of the sick family member.
In the rare instances when Dad was the one with the stomach ache, we would slink up the stairs behind our mother and wait quietly on the landing while she gave him a dose. If one of the children were ailing, the rest of us would march boldly behind Mom right into the bedroom of the afflicted. We'd surround the bed and watch as she opened the glass bottle and poured out a measure of the sticky syrup. The patient, sitting in bed with lips puckered, would swallow the brown liquid smooth as silk, leaving us to lick our lips vicariously at the sickeningly sweet taste.
Soon, the old fashioned remedy would fix our bout with the upset stomach and blessed relief would be ours.
Ten Cent Cokes in a Glass Bottle
Today there are countless over-the-counter products claiming to offer stomach ache relief. Television commercials sing catchy tunes about heartburn, stomach ache, and diarrhea, but I still turn to the old family favorite when needed.
There are many places to find old fashioned coke syrup. Google the term and you'll see several eBay listings and other places like the Vermont Country Store. They've brought back many of the familiar tried and tested products from days gone by.
Coca-Cola History in Two Minutes
Check with Your Doctor
This article is not intended to replace the professional advice of your doctor. This is a story about the sixties and what we did for temporary relief of mild indigestion due to overeating. I am not a medical professional.
For any matter of a medical nature, always contact your physician to ensure proper treatment of your medical problems.
© 2010 Peg Cole
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