Saturday, April 21, 2012

Teacher's Little Helper

As I was writing  Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl, I sometimes wondered if I was being too harsh on Edith Nicholson, the heroine of  the story,  because I made her an opium addict - of sorts.

My husband's great Aunt Edie was a prim and proper Presbyterian, after all, a tee-totaller, in her youth at least, although she tippled in her old age.

Caught in the Act!  Edith at her great-niece's wedding, 1971. In a 1919 letter home she criticizes Stephen Leacock, who published a letter in the local paper criticizing prohibition. "It takes a woman to know what's right," says Edith, mimicking the Suffrage and Temperance types.

But, then, I have a 1911 Na-Dru-Co Atlas to kind-of prove my point.

Na-Dru-Co was the National Drug Company of Canada and they sent around a thick promotional brochure in 1911 to Canadian homes, the era of both my ebooks.

I found this particular brochure in the Nicholson family trunk, the one with the letters on which I based my ebooks.

Most of the products they are pushing remind me of medicines "Granny Clampett" of the Beverly Hillbillies always talked about, sarsaparilla, or par-ill-eeee as she said.

The cough syrup contains licorice, linseed and chlorodyne. I looked up chlorodyne to see that it contained opium and cannabis. Bull's Eye! Oddly on a testimonials page someone claims they give it to a baby of 8 months. Another person says she knows someone who got cured of a cough and only used one bottle.

Edith had tonnes of colds and she was always on some medicine or other. Everyone was afraid of dying from pneumonia or TB!

And then came the horrible tragedy that took the life of her fiance and the Principal of the School where she worked, who was also a medical doctor, fixed her up with a great deal of  'heart medicine.'

There's a product called Nervozone advertised in this brochure with the following blurb:"In the strenuous rush of commerce, the severe strains of depressing social conditions, overstudy, changes of female life, or impending attacks of disease, the nerves become impaired. Irritability, brain worry, Sleeplessness ensue, accompanied by lack of Energy, Emissions, Impotency, Nervous Dyspepsia, Partial paralysis, palpitations of the heart,incontinence...NA-DRU-CO nervozone is specially prepared to cover all such cases..."

I wonder what this concoction contained?

Another blurb about it in the book says "Teachers and especially women teachers are the most fit subject for rest and vacation than any other workers in the country.  One day of worry in the school room is more trying than  a month of hard labour... The best advice we can give teachers is to keep a box of Nervozone in their desks...Tsk Tsk.

Ironically, in a 1909 letter, Edith says the doctor has told her - once again - to give up tea. LOL