Growing up, my parents had a special cupboard in their room for precious objects. It was predictably (and wisely) well above child height. Every now and then, we were allowed a peek of the contents. It was mysterious and forbidden. Naturally, this was the first place I strayed when my parents were out of the house. I would drag a stool in, stand on the creaking wicker and reach up. With a pull, the cupboard door would break open with a satisfying pop, which almost always caused me to lose my balance. I could only reach the bottom shelf and I would tentatively sift through the items. Everything I came across seemed sacred by default – even the left-over wrappers from secreted away sweets. What I really wanted to look at, hold and read was our family copy of Vitalogy, which was always on the top shelf. This epic vintage and fragile medical volume held fascinating and out-dated advice, beautiful illustrations and stained sepia pages. Being allowed to look at it always felt like a special and sacred event.
Years later, my mother came across another copy of the book and, remembering my fascination, bought it for my birthday.
Now that I have a child, it is fun to read some of the advice and giggle. However, it is a little sobering and worrying to think that it was once THE source of medical advice for families from 1900 to 1930.
Just before you put your child to bed tonight, consider this advice:
Putting Children to Bed Properly
Foot Bath: The first care of the mother should be to see that the child has a foot bath every night in warm weather, and every second night or third night at other times. No woman who neglects this simple duty has the right to assume the rearing of a child. If the habit of the daily bath is formed from infancy, it will seldom, if ever, be departed from in later life. Its value to the individual cannot be estimated in dollars and cents. Physiologists prove that it is more essential to keep the feet, especially the bottoms, clean than even the face.
Admit Pure and Expel Foul Air: The next duty of the mother is to see that the windows are so arranged that one will admit fresh air all the time and another let out foul air. The bugbear of draught has laid the seeds of many a disease. It is a notorious fact that invalids camping out and sleeping out of doors and in the draft of a tent seldom or never take cold .
Keep posted for the next instalment of ‘Vintage Wisdom of Vitalogy.’