12-28-17 Tri-City Area History Page

Peoples Savings Association (year unknown)

North Berrien Historical Museum is always interested in photos, stories or information sharing.  The museum can be contacted at 269-468-3330 or by email to info@northberrienhistory.org.

From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum

300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma

The Paw Paw River Journal

Patent medicines

 Just recently in our family we were talking about remedies people take to get healthy, stay healthy, get strong, virile, beautiful, or whatever.  And it set my mind on some pathways in the past.

I know about patent medicines; because when I was a little kid, my sister and I were dosed regularly by our mom.  I don’t know if she thought we looked a little peaked, or if we just needed a spring tonic tune up.  But she usually had some remedy she was trying out on us.

One I remember we called “Red Medicine.”  It came in a huge bottle and was ruby red in color.  It tasted all right, so we didn’t mind taking a teaspoon every morning.  Probably something touted to tone up the system and make us bright eyed and bushy tailed!

Then there was “Scott’s Emulsion.”  This was purely and simply cod liver oil.  It had a milky color and did not taste bad, so we didn’t mind a daily dose.  The bottle came in a cardboard box with a picture of a fisherman in oil skins, and he was carrying on his shoulder a huge cod fish.   When that bottle came out, I never made a fuss… as I sometimes did if it was more vile tasting stuff.

Undoubtedly the coute le vec of tonics was a little flask labeled “Seven Barks.”  At lunch time our Mom would bring out that little bottle and uncork it.  A sharp medicinal smell filled the air, and she gave us each a teaspoon… bitter tasting.  When we saw the bottle coming out we would pretend we were dogs and bark seven times… I suppose just to see if it would irritate her. But it never did.  And I’m sure it was somebody’s idea that the bark of seven different trees or bushes, when emulsified, would have a most desirable effect on little kids.

Undoubtedly the worst remedy of all was castor oil.  Sometimes when the alimentary canal gets blocked, and it occasionally will, nature needs a little help.  Our mom always monitored our digestive condition, and when traffic got too slow, out would come the castor oil. She wanted to make it as easy as possible on us, so she would dissolve a teaspoon in a small glass of orange juice.  I can still see in my mind’s eye, the little globules of oil floating on the surface.

I can also see most clearly… there I was sitting at the kitchen table… in front of me a juice glass filled with orange juice. And floating around on top, the little drops of oil.  I shuddered, looked at it again, and my mom said, “All right… just drink it down and you will not even taste it!”  And I did… got it down… and it must have had the desired effect, because I cannot remember having to repeat the performance.  But it put me off orange juice for years.  I can enjoy it now, but occasionally still look in the glass, and remember those little beads of oil floating around.

If I had a cough and chest congestion, out came the Vicks VapoRub.  When I went to bed, my mom would rub my chest with it, and tuck me in.  Then I drifted off to sleep with the fumes rising about me… and it did help the cough.

One home remedy I never got to know was Lydia Pinkham’s.  It came in a flask and was in the medicine cabinet with the rest of the home remedies.  When I was small, I wondered what it was for, and I think on occasion my mom took a hit from the bottle.  Later on I came to understand that it was for “female complaints.”  And I’ll bet a bottle of the stuff contained enough alcohol to keep any lady cross-eyed and pain free for a while.

For a period of time the airwaves were saturated with ads for a product called Hadacol.  It was guaranteed to make the most nervous person smile and keep their eyeballs rolling for a few hours.  I never tried any of it, but we used to joke about it… how did it get its name?  Well they “hadacol” it something!

No story on home remedies would be complete without quoting from Mark Twain’s famous novel, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”  Therein lies the best story about patent medicine I have ever heard.  Tom lived with his Aunt Polly who was always trying out some remedy or other.  One was called “The Pain Killer.”  It was horrible tasting and when swallowed went down like liquid fire.

Tom, always the schemer, decided to fake Aunt Polly out.  He began requesting a dose of the Pain Killer.  He asked for it so often, Aunt Polly told him to just get the medicine himself and take it.  Then he would get a teaspoon and mend the health of a crack in the living room floor.

One day he was pouring a spoonful down the crack when their big orange tom cat came in.  Peter sniffed the teaspoon.  Tom said, “Do you really want some of this?”  Yes, Peter wanted some.  So Tom pried open his mouth and poured into him a spoonful of the liquid fire.  Peter’s tail stood straight up, and with a horrible “Meow!” he raced around the room tearing up everything and finally out the window.

Aunt Polly witnessed this, and came in and whacked Tom on the head with her thimble.  She said, “How could you treat that cat so horribly?”

Tom replied, “I thought he might need a tonic like I do.”  Well, this put a different light on it.  What might be torture for a cat might also be torture for a small boy!  So she hugged Tom and told him it was just for his own good.  He replied, “Yes, and I haven’t seen Peter get around so lively in a long time!”

And that’s the story on patent medicine!

Coloma Library News

Holiday Hours

 The library will be closed on Saturday, December 30 and Monday, January 1, 2018. Regular hours resume on Tuesday, January 2. Happy New Year! Please call the library at 468-3431 if you have any questions about closings.

Read with Spirit

 Spirit, a certified therapy dog will be at the library on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Children may sign up for a 15-minute slot by stopping in at the front desk or calling the library at 468-3431. Reading to therapy dogs is a fun way for children to build reading confidence and fluency.

Book Club

 The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, January 11 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “The Address” by Fiona Davis.  Generally, depending on demand there are titles available for check-out at the front desk. The book club regularly meets every other Thursday and is always looking for new members.

Watervliet District Library News

Teen Table Projects: December

Key chain crafts: 3 styles. Duct tape, yarn, felt & paper. Make ’em and take ’em.

Story Hour

Wed. 10:30 a.m. & Thur. 1:30 p.m.

December to April show-and-tell, stories and crafts for children ages 3 – 5 and their families. Sign up to share our structured literacy program with your preschooler!

Library Garden Park

Purchase a Legacy Walk brick and celebrate a memory! Bricks are $75; 13 characters, 2 lines. Pick up a form at the library.


Monday 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.; Wednesday 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.; Chair Yoga Wednesday 6:00 –

6:45 p.m.