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?

It’s Our First Anniversary!

Mister Boomer is celebrating one full year of postings! During that time, Mister B has been gratified to know that tens of thousands of visitors from all over the U.S. and Canada have stopped by to reminisce and recall our place in history.

It’s been Mister B’s mission to bring you entertaining and informative musings on the boomer age, our youth and the changing times we’ve witnessed by connecting personal recollections with historical events. In the course of our weekly postings, some writings have generated great enthusiasm, which reinforces Mister B’s notion that though we boomers differ in our economic and social backgrounds, we all share a great deal that is unique to our generation.

With a celebratory wink and a nod, here are Mister Boomer’s personal Top Ten favorite postings of his first year. If you missed them the first time around, have a look and jump-start memories of your own. If you recall reading them, visit again and see if you agree with Mister B that these are the cream of the crop!

10. There’s a Kind of Crush, All Over the Boomer World
Posted March 6, 2011
Coming of age in the 1960s wouldn’t be complete for a young boomer without recognizing the beautiful, strong, modern women that graced the TV screen. In this posting, Mister B relates his choices for top celebrity crushes.

9. Boomers Strike Solid Gold
Posted July 3, 2010
Music formed the soundtrack to our lives, and perhaps we owe it all to the advent of the transistor radio. Take a trip down the musical memory lane as Mister B recalls early 1960s music emanating from his personal battery-powered radio.

8. Musical Youth
Posted August 14, 2010
Music appreciation in our schools did not equate to our appreciation of the top 40 songs we were listening to on the radio and playing on our record players. What would happen if a teacher dared to cross the lines to use modern music in her class as a teaching tool? Mister B relates the disastrous results.

7. Home Delivery
Posted August 9, 2010
Of the many things that made our youth different than other generations, home delivery — especially of milk products — was one to which every boomer can ascribe a story. Here are Mister B’s stories of home delivery services in his neighborhood.

6. Boomers Heart Robots
Posted October 10, 2010
Robots were fun playthings at home, but also scary nightmares in movies. Mister B relates that dichotomy in our pop culture that made robots a metaphor for our times.

5. 8-Track Mind
Posted August 23, 2010
High on the list of boomer-time products that are now gone are 8-track tapes. For many of us, it was the first introduction to “music on demand” in our cars. Hated by some for its clunkiness, now the tapes can be rediscovered through the romantic prism of an age gone by.

4. The Final Frontier
Posted September 26, 2010
Perhaps nothing captured our young imaginations more in the fifties and early sixties than visions of space. Travel with Mister B on his journey, following the earliest space missions.

3. Which Cat Was the Coolest?
Posted July 18, 2010
On the surface, the boomer battle of Felix the Cat vs. Top Cat tends to fall along the lines of which decade you happen to be born in; those born in the fifties gravitate toward Felix, while early sixties boomer babies lean to the Top Cat camp. Nostalgia aside, explore the inner feline workings of these classic and smart cartoons and decide as an adult which side you are on.

2. Laughing Through the Cold War
Posted June 20, 2010
While many of us were too young to fully appreciate the meaning of total annihilation, we were able to do our share of laughing at the satire and comedy that it spawned. From Duck and Cover to Get Smart, Mister B enjoyed laughing through the Cold War.

1. See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet, Again?
Posted September 13, 2010.
Where would our country be, or where would we boomers be, without President Eisenhower’s vision for the building of the National Interstate Highway System? Mister B’s personal recollection of the building of the National Interstate Highway System in his neighborhood firmly links this boomer to the historic event that arguably was among the biggest changes in our lives. This is the essence to which misterboomer.com strives.

Thank you for visiting Mister Boomer and making this site a success. If you’ve had a chuckle, conjured a memory or learned a tidbit, tell your friends. As always, your comments are welcome. Here’s to looking forward to another exciting year of looking back!