Meridian Star


March 28, 2014

When all else fails, gargle …

MERIDIAN — Gargle, you ask? Yes, when all else fails, gargle. I’m living proof.

        When I was a child, the appropriate gargle liquid was Oscar Lillybeck’s Antiseptic. Some of you might remember it. In my dreams, somewhat disturbing dreams, the image of the old bottle comes to me. It was a square, clear glass thing, with Oscar Lillybeck, Wholesale Druggist, Meridian, Miss., embossed on the side. It gives me a shiver to remember.

         You see I was an only child and an ongoing experiment for my mother. Had I a younger brother or sister, my mother would have been ready for them with tried and true mothering care, but being the first and only one, she needed help, especially when I was sick. Daddy went to work every day and left me in her care – a stay-at-home-mom. It was a good thing.

            When the spring of the year arrived, sometimes I developed sneezes, watery eyes, a clogged nose and throat. My mother would take me next door to Grandma Dennis and Aunt Eula’s “medical clinic.” Not a clinic at all, but wonderful neighbors, who adopted me as an additional grandchild — even asked me to call them Grandma and Aunt.

        On those sick days, when we arrived to their door, immediately Grandma would go to the bathroom closet and bring out a bottle of Lillybeck’s Antiseptic. Then we would march to the kitchen, where Grandma found the biggest spoon there, filled it with the stuff, and put the spoon to my mouth.

    “Gargle this,” she would say cheerfully, as if it was yummy and delightful. It didn’t take me long to learn that I should hold my breath, close my eyes, and gulp the stuff into my throat as fast as I could, then spit, gag, and puke it out even faster.

         Next Grandma would pour a large amount of the awful liquid into a glass so that we might take some home with us. She would say, “Now, Narlee, make sure she gargles three times today.” By golly, by the next morning, I was almost cured. I mean I didn’t want another trip next door, unless for homemade cookies or mint tea.

         We would make the same Lillybeck’s visit when I scraped my knee, cut my hand or was bitten by a bug, scratched by the cat, or stumped my toe. This time, the antiseptic was poured generously upon the injury, hurt like rip, although Grandma said the entire time, “This won’t hurt.” Grandma Dennis and Aunt Eula were totally dedicated to Mr. Lillybeck, thought his concoction could grow a limb back, maybe it could? I mean I turned out okay and I was raised on the stuff.

         Grandma believed in the apple-a-day-will-keep-the-doctor-away. I must say I never saw a doctor at her house, except maybe for homemade cookies and mint tea. There was always a bowl of fresh fruit on her dining room table as well as apple cider vinegar in the kitchen cabinet.

    The vinegar was used for heartburn, sunburn, mouth sores, and bug bites. Oh, and she loved a hot water bottle, too, for headaches, stomach aches, infected teeth, and bruised knees – made soothing relief, although temporary. She even recommended the hot water bottle for icy feet, when going to bed in the unheated bedrooms, during the winter months.

         In my childhood memories, I remember only one Grandma-medical-recommendation that did not work. It was that dreadful day she suggested an enema. Grandma believed in “fastings” and “cleanings” each spring and fall.

    That year I had been complaining with a stomach ache and Grandma thought the solution was an enema. She had my mother buy a kit at Mr. Wall’s drugstore – wasted money, no doubt, because, well, I was not a good candidate. Perfect enema patients are calm and still during the thing – not me! The next day when my mother reported to Grandma, she sighed, and grabbed her bottle of Lillybeck’s.

         Today, I think we should pay attention to the old remedies, sometimes skip the antibodies and pill-popping regiments, and follow our grandma’s advice. “When all else fails, gargle.”

Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller. Visit her web site:

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