Good Health

You had to be really sick to go to the doctor

By Ted Blowers

Many kids walked a fair way to school. I went to the Catholic School and had to walk from Waltham Road to Montague Road on the Morden side four times a day. Some came even further. No surprise that you rarely saw an obese person. Add to that the running about we did all the time, it’s a wonder that we didn’t all look anorexic. Despite the rationing and shortages, not only of food but also of money, we were very healthy. You had to be really sick to go to the doctor. The main killers were scarlet fever, whooping cough, diphtheria and TB. Many will remember if you were playing and you saw an ambulance (called by most a 'fever ambulance), you would stop playing to say the age-old rhyme: Don’t swaller, hold yer collar till you see a dog. I have no idea what it was all about but it was what we did.

The war did the poor a favour

The war did the poor a favour: clinics were set up, children got a third of a pint of free milk at school and supplements of cod liver oil and malt, concentrated orange juice, inoculations and early childhood care at the clinic. Periodically around the school would come the public health nurse to check for head lice, ring worm, and scabies. She was known as 'Knitty Nora, the flea explorer' because she used a pair of knitting needles to lift your hair to check for wildlife. Sad was the kid that got a note to take home as it seemed to be the general treatment to shave the head, smother it with some blue stuff, then wear a hood until the hair grew again. Most of us would be kept clean by our mothers with the nightly ritual of kneeling down while she would go through your hair with a fine tooth comb, removing and killing anything you had picked up that day. Another nurse would come and look at your teeth. Strange to think of all the problems and diseases that were eradicated by better housing, hygiene, nutrition, and education, yet are back to haunt us with a vengeance today.

I also wonder how we ever survived to learn anything. We all know that in the 50s the lead was removed from paint as it is dangerous, yet all over London and in the playground of several schools, (Tweeddale Road School certainly had them), there were lead troughs or basins attached to the wall which had a lead cup hanging from a chain. When you were thirsty, you would turn on the tap, fill the cup and drink and so would all the other kids, yet we did not seem to have any plagues that I can remember.


This page was added by Ted Blowers on 19/09/2010.
Comments about this page

Lovely memories, Ted! Thank you. Two of our versions of your "protection charms" were (for an ordinary, cream coloured ambulance:- "Touch leather, touch nose, Never go in one of those. For a dark green, fever ambulance):- "Touch collar, never swaller, never catch the fever. Nor you, nor me, nor all the family. Hold yer breath till you see a dog!" My four-years-younger brother and sister both landed-up in the dreaded Cuddington Fever Hospital, way-up on the Downs (between Banstead and Ewell East stations). Mind you-they were only about 3 at the time, so they hadn't learnt the rhymes! I always felt sorry for the kids who were led to one side by Nitty Nora and lined-up outside the staff room. They'd probably appear a few days later, like you said, their heads having been shaved and painted, with "Gentian Violet", a purple-staining antiseptic concoction!

By Bill Mallion
On 27/04/2011

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