Thursday, June 3, 2010

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me A Million Times – Chapter 39

#39 - "Mercurochrome and Vaseline will cure anything.”
(Photo is of my dad and my brother – probably taken around 1942.)

Mom tended to take a rather vague but seemingly effective approach to treating us kids’ illnesses, pains or ”owies.” Her treatments usually consisted of ignoring us or giving us half a baby aspirin (regardless of our age). But she had two other home-remedies in her vast medical repertoire - Mercurochrome and Vaseline, or as mom said a million times, petroleum jelly.

In a world with daily medicine recalls, one has to wonder just how in the hell we survived childhood without modern medicine – or perhaps we survived for the lack of it! When I  researched Mercurochrome, I was a bit horrified! Wiki says that in 1998 the FDA virtually halted its distribution in the United States over fears of mercury poisoning. Yikes! It’s a wonder I didn’t grow a third eye! No wonder I have kinky hair, my nose is too big, and Tom Smith didn't fall in love with me when I was in the 9th grade. It’s all Mercurochrome’s fault.  Click on Read More Below...

Actually, us kids wore Mercurochrome as a badge of honor, brilliantly documenting an injury of significance (a very loud orange color similar to Betadine topical antiseptics)! I recall the time I put my knee down on a firecracker during one of our many firecracker wars. That was an outstanding battle scar! And to think we don’t even let children play unsupervised anymore. Where’s the fun in that?

I am proud to say that petroleum jelly is still a product of wonder, although it’s derivation is a bit sketchy. My KOTE (Knower Of All Things), Wiki again, says that petroleum jelly was discovered in 1859 on oilrigs. Workers disliked the paraffin-like material forming on rigs because it caused them to malfunction, but they used it on cuts and burns because it hastened healing. I’ll bet their hands were lovely too.

When I was growing up, we didn’t own lip salve, body lotion, eye crème, face moisturizer, hydrocortisone, foot crème, cuticle crème, makeup remover, or hair crème, gel or moisturizer. We had petroleum jelly. Honestly, I’m surprised mom didn’t put it on top of her pies to make them prettier (she used egg-wash instead). Mom would buy a giant tub of Vaseline and slather it on anything that wasn’t bleeding profusely (reference the Mercurochrome). We’d then wait to see if we were going to die.

Evidently there’s still a sizeable petroleum jelly following as I found several websites dedicated to it’s virtues and uses, my fav’s being, “Mix a little with Kool-Aid powder for a colored and flavored lip gloss; apply to your teeth to prevent your lips from sticking to them (celebrities and beauty pageant contestants); and long-distance runners (men) rub it on your nipples to keep them from chaffing.”

Does anyone remember turpentine and baby oil mixed together for tanning lotion? Or should I say sautéing oil! Why we don’t all have skin cancer is a complete mystery.

So mom was right, Mercurochrome and Vaseline will cure anything – at least as long as your number isn’t up anyway!




  1. Hilarious. You just took me back in time to my own childhood. We had a huge container of Petroleum Jelly in a silver can the size of a can of Crisco. I have no idea where it came from, but we used it for everything. Baby aspirin, Mercurochrome---yep, you got my childhood perfect. Thanks for the laughs.

  2. Thanks SueAnn for allowing me to go back in time for just a few minutes to capture those wonderful memories and the laughs.

  3. I still keep a big jar of Vaseline around - it removes eye makeup and prevents chapped lips, and yes, my husband has used it on his nipples to prevent chafing while running! It works! My mom told me that when she was a teenager they mixed baby oil with iodine to make "suntan lotion." I can't tan to save my life so it never worked for me (I tried it when I was young) - just made me burn twice as fast!

  4. My too tanya. Some things are just universal. Thanks for the comments.