Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
When I was about five years old, I had an aunt named Berna Lockwood. She lived in Columbus, but she and my mother were very close, and she visited us often. During one of those visits, I got a really bad stomachache. You see, Bill Porter and I had been eating apples all day from a tree in our neighbor’s backyard. I guess I just ate too many.
My mother gave me something she got at the drugstore, but it didn’t seem to help. So Aunt Berna went into the kitchen and mixed up some sort of concoction for me to drink. In only a few minutes, I began to feel better, and my stomachache was soon gone.
From that day on, whenever I got sick, I didn’t want a doctor. I wanted Aunt Berna. She nursed me through chickenpox, then the measles, and also a bout with croup. She took care of them all.
Now move the calendar forward about five years to when I was 10 years old. I got something that was pretty painful. My mother said it looked like a boil, and she was going to call Dr. Longbrake. But I resisted. I told her I wanted Aunt Berna. So my mother gave her a call.
She didn’t drive, but she said she would take the early bus from Columbus to Marysville the next morning. My dad could pick her up at the bus station and bring her to our house.
I probably should tell you at this point where the boil was located. Instead, however, I’ll just say that it really hurt me when I sat. In fact, I couldn’t sit on the wooden seat of my school desk because it hurt so much. So I had to leave school and come home.
I spent most of that day lying on my stomach on our sofa as I listened to the radio, waiting for my aunt to arrive the next morning. When she walked into my room, she examined the area and said, “Oh, Billy, you have a carbuncle.”
I didn’t know what that was, so she explained that it was a large boil with two cores. She said we needed to “draw out” both cores and let the carbuncle drain. Then the pain would be gone. I didn’t even ask her how she would do that. She knew all kinds of home remedies that were used when she was growing up back in the 1880s.
My sister drove her to Wolgamot Drug Store at the corner of Fifth and Main Streets. She bought something called “flax seed” and a few other things.
As soon as she got home she took those things into the kitchen and started making what she called “Flaxseed Poultices.” She cooked the flaxseed in a pan of boiling water. It turned into kind of a paste. Then she put a glob of that stuff on a few layers of Cheesecloth and wrapped it around the flaxseed so it looked a lot like a potato cake.
She told me that the poultices we’re going to be very hot, and it was a combination of the heat and the flaxseed that would draw out the carbuncle cores. Then she put one on the carbuncle. Oh man, was that hot! It took quite a while for it to cool down a bit, and as soon as it was no longer uncomfortable, she took it off and put on a new one.
This went on all day long, one hot poultice after another. Then that evening, she took a close look at the carbuncle. She told me it was coming along nicely, and it would probably draw out those cores sometime the next day.
Thank goodness she was right. About 4 p.m. the next afternoon both cores came out, and I was on my way to recovery. The next day, I was back in school, thanks to Aunt Berna and her flaxseed poultices.
I think carbuncles are pretty rare, so you will probably never get one. But if you do, I hope it’s on your arm, instead of where I had mine.
Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org