Monday, September 8, 2014

Cobalt blue

The jar was blue. It came off the shelf whenever a Loxley girl had a stuffy nose or chest cold. Mom warmed the substance in a pan of hot water then held a towel over the head of the sick girl, allowing her to breathe in the vapors. For further healing, a warm cloth was placed across the sticky stuff when Mom slathered it on her child. Now I'm not saying this was awful. It was, in fact, soothing. Yes, like many of you, I grew up with Vicks in my life.

A customer came up to the counter where for some unknown reason a conversation ensued regarding the benefits of the little jar of Vicks. The healing powers of this gooey substance has more recently extended to spreading it on the bottom of feet to subdue a cough or spread on nail fungus to chase the nasty stuff away. We all had our positive stories about Vicks.

I only knew of a few things that came in that cobalt blue glass. Bromo Seltzer, Vicks and Noxema were on the pharmacy shelves. My friend Vivian wore Evening in Paris cologne which came in a cobalt blue bottle found in the makeup section. I didn't pay much attention to the glass back then, but now I love the color of the bottles sitting in a window with the sun shining through the blue glass. The product was successful enough to continue for generations with old bottles now prized by the collector.

We didn't have a medicine cabinet. As hazardous as it was, the meds all sat on a shelf at the side of the stairs to the basement. Everything from horse liniment to mineral oil lined up on that shelf. Further down on the shelf was a box of rollers and tissues in a Toni Permanent Wave box.The Vicks bottle always caught my eye when I opened that cellar door. That cobalt blue jar that offered comfort.

Back in 1890, pharmacist Lunsford Richardson developed a products that would provide relief without the use of plasters and poultices. He named it after his brother-in-law Dr. Joshua Vick. In 1898 he marketed the product along with other Vick products. I grew up with Vicks VapoRub and Vicks cough drops. A pungent salve soothed a cold and delicious cherry cough drops made a cold tolerable.

We talked about Vicks. A group of women ranging in age from 21 to 67. As the customer left the store, she turned back and said an absolutely wonderful thing, "I open the jar of and remember my mother." Thanks for the memories, Vicks.

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