Photo-thanks to Doris Blackburn/ Karen Blackburn Chenier — now located at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.
Once upon a time having rheumatoid arthritis was a really serious problem and chances are if you lived in the area you went for a walk over to Mac Williams to see what he could do about your Rheumatism and Neuralgia.
Everyone thought only old people got this disease. It was like this: “there’s gramps, limping along slowly, leaning heavily on his cane. He has the rheumatiz.” Or “there’s gramma, crocheting winter scarves–slowly, slowly–with gnarled, misshapen fingers, but she rarely complains. She has arthritis.”
There were other misconceptions back in the olden days, too. Did you know everyone thought osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis were the same disease? There wasn’t much you could do for it and chances are what Mac Williams had available were hopeful, but mostly useless.
For instance Mac would probably tell you that you could rub hot vinegar on your sore joints. Or, you could gulp down a refreshing glass of orange juice –with cod liver oil–right before bedtime. That liniment in the photo looks like it might be soothing; it probably still exists in some form that you can buy online today.
Tincture of idodine
Although many people have no idea of what camphorated oil is, they have heard of it from an old song. In this song, sung to the tune of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” John Brown’s baby had a cold upon its chest, so he rubbed it with camphorated oil. As the song suggests, camphorated oil is good for colds and flu and my Grandmother sang it to me each time she pulled that darn bottle out.
Camphor oil is known for it’s strong, nasty aroma. Large doses can be toxic, but Grammy Mary Louise Deller Knight ignored all that I swear. She said she always had things in her medicine cabinet to make you feel better — and she did– but I can still smell them 60 years later. Did you know a treatment for schizophrenia, initially was through an injection of camphor oil. And let’s not forget that same oil was used as a balm on cold sores and chapped lips. Yuck!!
Photo thanks to Lorraine Nephin- Bruce Sadler’s vintage Canadian newspapers