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U3A Writing: Things Long Gone

...In my day doctors were a last resort in illness. Everyone had their own cures: chests rubbed with camphorated oil, a Vick Vapour Rub, sore throats gargled with red sage and vinegar, a cough soothed with lemon, honey, Ipechuana, and Beecham’s powders or aspirin for easing the symptoms...

Peggy MacKay remembers the days when life seemed less complicated. This article was written at the request of Peggy’s youngest daughter.

Some time ago there was a letter in the paper asking whether anyone remembered pobs. I’m sure there are many like myself who did, that lovely comforting beaker of warm milk and sugar and bread when one had been poorly. I also gave them to my own children.

In my day doctors were a last resort in illness. Everyone had their own cures: chests rubbed with camphorated oil, a Vick Vapour Rub, sore throats gargled with red sage and vinegar, a cough soothed with lemon, honey, Ipechuana, and Beecham’s powders or aspirin for easing the symptoms.

Recovery was aided with Scotts Emulsion or cod liver oil and malt, and syrup of figs was the constipation remedy.

The next item was, “Had anyone seen the Zeppelin Air Ship?”. I remember Dad taking my sisters and me out to look at it. We lived at Quarmby at the time, so it must have been the early 1930s. In those days aeroplanes were unusual, and the big jets we now see were few and far between, if at all.

Another sight now gone is the Concorde, which is now history as far as our great-grandchildren are concerned, but I did see that too.

When I was in my early teens, Dad came home from work one winter’s evening when it was dark and took us out to see “A sight you may never see again as long as you live,” in his words. This was the Aurora Borealis. My sisters maybe never did but, as I lived in the far north of Scotland, it was a common sight, and my children were quite used to seeing it as they grew up.

Something else our great-grandchildren will never have seen: a tram, a trolley bus and a conductor on any of the road transport - the man who punched the tickets (or the lady) and shouted out, “Move right down along the car, please.”

He also shouted the names of destinations. This was necessary during the war as the lights were dim and the windows darkened, but buses also had conductors before and after that.

When I was a child, the milkman delivered the milk from a churn carried on a cart pulled by a horse. It was measured and poured into the customer’s jug. Cream was delivered likewise into a small jug.

The greengrocer’s cart came in the same way with a pair of scales to weigh out the vegetables.

In the grocers’ shops, particularly in the large stores like the Coop and Broughs, there was a flour boy and a potato boy who did nothing else except weigh flour in half stones and stones, and potatoes likewise.

Here in the Colne Valley there were at least a dozen mills working and issuing forth smoke, so the only time one could see across the valley was the holiday week in the summer. Every mill had its own hooter which sounded at a different time in the morning, and we recognised which mill by the sound.

The coalman must be another memory with his bags of coal to shunt into the coal place, to put on the fire to warm your front and legs but not often your back.

These are all things remembered that our great-grandchildren will never have seen or heard, but in years to come someone will be writing to ask, “Did you remember?”

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