Boomer Summers: How Moms Treated Scrapes and Cuts

Summer is here, and kids are out of school and ready to hit the video games for a day of indoor, air-conditioned play. This was hardly the case in our boomer youth; of course, video games had yet to be invented, but for us, summer was synonymous with outdoor play.

Each summer day, shortly after the sun came up, and certainly by seven or seven-thirty in the morning, Mister Boomer and his siblings would get out of bed and fix themselves bowls of their favorite sugary cereal. Their mother, having awakened hours earlier to make their father’s breakfast before he headed to work by six-thirty, had returned to bed and remained sound asleep.

The kids, heading out the front door, left it as it had been all night — open to allow the cool evening air to circulate through the screen door. They proceeded to meet up with other boomer kids on the block, of varying ages. Usually the girls would split off on their own to revel in a world of Barbies and tea parties, but occasionally some would join the boys in explorations of streets, fields and forests, as they picked up stray bits of wood, twigs, rocks, dirt balls, insects and garter snakes along the way.

Sometimes the play would stay on the block, with bike riding that inevitably turned to dares of maneuvers with varying degrees of questionable safety: riding no-hands, standing on one pedal, jumping off as the bike crashed into a neighbor’s tree.

Since boys will be boys, there were bound to be bruises, cuts and scrapes. Whether they were self-inflicted from falls or jackass stupidity, or at the hand of a neighbor via a spur-of-the-moment projectile or weapon, there was blood. Rarely did the condition warrant a doctor’s attention. More often than not, a quick pit stop back home would suffice as the Emergency Room of Summer.

At the home front, moms would take the nearest cloth — a dish cloth, dish towel or bathroom washcloth — and wipe the wounded area. Then, reaching into the bathroom medicine cabinet, the family’s bottle of Mercurochrome would be taken out. Just the name alone said “this is real medicine.” It was funny stuff. A bright, red-orange liquid kept in a small, brown bottle, it was topped with a cap that contained a glass stick applicator. The kids cringed as the liquid was spread across the affected area, though it did not sting. It left a reddish patch surrounding the wound as it dried; a Red Badge of Courage in the Battles of Summer. Like a race car driver that finished getting a new set of tires, just like that the kids were out the door and ready to finish the day’s race in record time.

Little did we know that Mercurochrome, the trade name for merbromin, was not a miracle mystery cure, but a topical antiseptic. Unlike iodine, which we sometimes confused it with, Mercurochrome did not contain alcohol and therefore our initial cringes were calmed when the sting that iodine delivered did not follow its application. What it did contain was mercury, which ultimately led to its undoing.

Mercurochrome
Mercurochrome was the trade name for merbromin. Photo attributed to Kevin Vreeland; Some rights reserved. For information on licensing, visit Creative Commons:http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/deed.en



Like many drugs present in our early boomer years, merbromin had been in use for decades. Discovered in 1919, it was developed for public consumption by the Baltimore firm of Hynson, Westcott & Dunning. As a topical antiseptic, it was used to treat small cuts and scrapes through the Depression years, World War II and into the prime boomer years of the 1950s and ’60s.

In 1978, the Federal Food and Drug Administration conducted a review of over-the-counter medication, including mercury-based compounds like merbromin. There had never been a study linking the mercury-based compounds to any injuries or deaths, but some subsequent studies have suggested possible links for mercury-based compounds to a number of illnesses, including autism in children. By 1998, the FDA had concluded that merbromin — Mercurochrome — was “not generally recognized as safe and effective.” As a result, the sale of all forms of merbromin was forbidden across state lines. Thus the reign of this topical antiseptic of our youth had unceremoniously ended.

What boomer memory is conjured up for you when you hear the word, Mercurochrome?

Boomer Cartoon Quiz

Mister Boomer thought he’d kick off his second year with a good old-fashioned quiz about classic cartoons. Of the many things we boomers share, one of the most ubiquitous is that every Saturday morning, we’d get up — often before our parents — fix ourselves a bowl of cereal, and turn on the cartoons.

Take the quiz and see what you can remember!

Boomer Cartoon Quiz

Progress:

1. What was Mighty Mouse's catch phrase?

2. What was the name of Elroy Jetson's dog?

3. What was the name of the company where George Jetson worked?

4. What did Mr. Peabody always tell Sherman to follow him into?

5. What was Yogi Bear always on the lookout for in Jellystone Park?

6. We loved our anthropomorphic animal characters. What type of animal was Rocky (Rocky & Bullwinkle Show)?

7. What type of animal was Cecil (Beany & Cecil)?

8. How many fingers did Mickey Mouse have on each hand?

9. Who was The Professor's nephew on Felix the Cat?

10. What tattoo appeared on both of Popeye's forearms?

11. What was Quick Draw McGraw's occupation?

12. What law of Physics was often temporarily delayed in Road Runner?

Are you a boomer cartoon expert?