Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Good Old Days.

I was in a shop this week and an old lady in front of me was talking about 'The good old days,' and how she wished it was still like it was. And I smiled to myself. Because that afternoon I had been putting the finishing touches to a chapter of a book I have been writing concerning life after the war. (I was born in 1939.) I want my children to know what it was really like, warts and all.

'We were in the main healthy if undernourished, though every conceivable malady or affliction was never far away. Like many other children I suffered the horrors of several, all debilitating, and some embarrassing.
Painful puss filled boils, often on the neck where clothing rubbed, the result of an unhealthy diet. Plus sties, an equally painful inflammation of the glands that lie along the edge of the eyelid. Each a sore red swelling with a head of white, painful itching treated, not always successfully by the application of greasy Golden Eye Ointment. Chicken pox and measles would travel through the village, and, on arrival, create anxious times for all who had been in contact with the first victims for the next three weeks.
Red sore patches and yellow oozing blisters would herald the arrival of impetigo, shared towels in infant and junior school meant shared impetigo.
Head lice too were rife, tiny wingless insects very capable of moving from school desk to school desk and then from friend to friend. The discovery of tiny greyish white eggs at an early stage preferable to the extreme itching that signified the eggs had hatched and the lice rife. Plus ringworm, sore, itchy and infectious, a fungus of distinctive red rings often caught from the animals ever present in village life. All irritating conditions but seldom life threatening. The same could not be said of other sicknesses and ailments prevalent in the village and surrounding area.
Whooping cough, particularly feared by parents of children under the age of one, contagious and dangerous. The ‘whooping’ sound emitting as those afflicted breathed in, distressing to victim and parent alike. Plus diphtheria, at least equally distressing. An airborne bacterium that can lead to severe breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure and death.
Scarlet fever, a not uncommon childhood illness, a distinctive, very infectious streptococcal bacteria often needing isolation in hospitals provided for the purpose if it was to be contained and its effects limited.
One child in the village distinctly remembered sitting on the pavement playing snobs, also sometimes called jacks, a pastime popular with many. An innocuous grazed finger caused by contact with the pavement led to isolation in nearby Draycott Hospital and eight weeks incarceration, the result of contracting Scarlet Fever. Another village child was in the same hospital for the same illness. Her smaller sister also contacted the disease, seemingly from innocuously kissing her hand whilst visiting. Each instance of infection distressing but not surprising.
Poliomyelitis, also called polio. A dangerous condition causing weakness, paralysis and serious breathing problems; often with fatal results. So serious that many who survived inherited weaknesses in an arm or leg for the rest of their lives. A contagious disease that was particularly rife when bathing in canals and pools was practised ignorant of and oblivious to the dangers inherent in such seemingly innocent pastimes.
One or two of the village children wore callipers, a reminder that Ockbrook was no more immune from the likes of polio or the condition known as club foot than any other post war village.
Also not unknown were neck goitres, a condition borne of an iodine deficiency, easily prevented in more enlightened times, so prevalent in Derbyshire that it was nicknamed ‘Derbyshire Neck’.
There were also at least two individuals who were termed mongol, (much later more sympathetically termed Downs Syndrome) and at least two persons termed ‘deaf and dumb’. Again a misnomer as the deaf persons in question were not necessarily mute, again indicative of less understanding times. Plus there were also present in the village one or two who were minus limbs due to accidents plus others with all manner of mental incapacity and instability, often hidden behind closed doors. Most afflictions treated with sympathy for village life tended to reflect in the main the idea that ‘You look after your own’. '

Lest people think we were unhappy, we we not, partly because we we knew of nothing else.
A sombre post indeed. So to cheer everyone up, a taste of the humour of the day. Suggesting that at times they were indeed 'The good old days.'

18 comments:

CWMartin said...

Thanks for putting it in perspective. It can get hard to remember that we are still basically in a golden age right now, with all the advancements of the last 80 yrs or so. I would very much like to read your book when published.

Hanny said...

Many people feel that they were "better off in the land of Egypt." I think, perhaps this is a mental defense mechanism we implement to protect ourselves, since we would all go crazy if we actually remembered things the way they truly were.
Thanks for sharing!

David L Macaulay said...

wow - you don't think of puss balls etc. It seems glamorous, albeit dangerous with hindsight.

Our Life In A Caravan said...

Are kids any healthier today with their asthma, eating disorders and allergies after being wrapped up in cotton wool and not forgetting their mental disorders! I think the kids of today are worse off!

slommler said...

Well that puts things into perspective for sure!!
Hugs
SueAnn

RJR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Valerie said...

Thankfully all I suffered from was chicken pox, measles and mastoid problems brought on by measles, but I do remember all the other ailments you listed. And don't some say now that kids were healthier in the 'good old days'.

jacksofbuxton said...

Everything always looks better through rose tinted specs and time.

Ayak said...

They weren't really the good old days at all..although as children it was easy to just focus on the positive rather than the negative. Like we always seem to remember that summers were long and hot in the UK...but were they really?

Great post Ken x

ILoveMyDogandMy Music said...

Most people, when making that comment, are only thinking of one or two times when they felt comfortable or in charge. I don't think they would want to go back to many things in their lives. I have friend who was a child in England when you were and told me of being packed up and sent away to the country, away from parents, to be safe in England. We only were without gas for the car, tires, etc and some rationing. I barely remember it, so it certainly didn't effect me. A lot of suffering went on for those of you in England.

the fly in the web said...

French schools are still only providing one towel for all the kids...

sleepinl8 said...

Oh, I completely agree wit Our Life In A Caravan. I would know, having one of the mentioned modern mental health issues.

RJR said...

Funny how yesterday is often tinted with "rose coloured glasses" As humans we don't deal well with change and the future holds the unknown, leaving us thinking of the good old days we know?

RJRDaydreamer

Marty said...

A great post. I just found your blog a little while ago, and I love how you are able to put things into perspective. You certainly deserve your Blog of Note status. Can't wait to read your book.

Jeneane said...

Good to be reminded of what we have left behind Ken. I'm old enough to remember some of these afflictions. And right now people in Christchurch, NZ are returning to old ways of doing things. Cooking over camp fires, carrying and boiling drinking water, digging latrines. Let's hope the rumoured measles cases can be contained and serious outbreaks of gastroenteritis be nipped in the bud. But there will always be those who think they know better than to wash their hands...

Nakamuras on Saipan said...

My parents, who were children during the war as it swept through Germany, often reminded us that the "good ole days" were not always so good. I have to remind myself of this often now-a-days....when I start to whine about things.

Rosalind Adam said...

A chilling account of all the maladies. It's easy to forget how gruesome something like a cut or boil could be with malnutrition and no antibiotics. I'm relieved to be living today rather than yesterday but I wonder how people in the future will view the 'terrible' illnesses and conditions suffered by our generation.

Retired English Teacher said...

I really enjoyed reading this, even though the topic was not very comforting. The topic did remind me of the diseases we still struggled with in my childhood. I am six years younger, but whooping cough, polio and scarlet fever struck either my siblings or my cousins. Yes, they were not always the good old days.