Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Conversation Pieces

Sitting rather conspicuously on a bookshelf in our den is a large, brown bottle of salicylic acid. Next to it is a very old bottle of Davis rubbing alcohol. I’ll admit my wife looked at me warily a couple weeks ago as she watched me place them carefully on the shelf.

“What in the world is that?”

I think those are the words she used.

“Conversation pieces,” was my reply.

For the record, I did a little research on salicylic acid tonight. This is what I discovered:

“Topically, salicylic acid is capable of penetrating and breaking-down fats and lipids, making it capable of causing moderate chemical burns of the skin if at very high concentrations (such as near or actually the majority ingredient) within a solvent. It is capable of damaging the lining of pores in such cases if the solvent is alcohol. Caution should be exercised when handling large volumes of salicylic acid, and protective gloves are recommended for any repeat, prolonged exposure.”

The point being if you mix salicylic acid with rubbing alcohol, you have some rather potent stuff. Protective gloves would be very appropriate.

I ran into Leonard Whatley recently and he told me he had something he wanted me to have. I followed my retired Reynolds GA pharmacist friend out to his car expecting a chocolate cake or maybe even one of my dad’s old hats. Instead he showed me a couple of antique bottles. As soon as I saw them I laughed. I remembered a story he told me years ago that I have told hundreds of times all over the country.

In the late 1950’s, our family friend Sid got a bad case of the itch. The technical term for the itch is tinea cruris. For our purposes, it’s the kind of itch you are not supposed to talk about in public. Sid drove into town to Clay Whatley’s drug store (Leonard would later purchase the store from his Uncle Clay) and with a worried expression on his face told Clay, “I’ve got a terrible case of the itch. I can’t sleep at night and I’m keeping Eula Maude up at night too.”

Clay calmly walked in the back of the store and mixed up a concoction of salicylic acid and rubbing alcohol.

Actually he mixed the concoction from the very bottles that are now sitting on our bookcase.

But Clay had some words of warning as he handed it over: “Sid this stuff is hot. What you need to do is go home and fill your bathtub up with cool water. Right before you sit in the tub, you just dab a little of this on you. Sid, a little dab will do you. It won’t take much.”

Sid drove home, went straight to his bathroom and filled his tub with cool water. Right before he sat in the tub he dabbed a little on him. He stood there a moment and thought, if a little bit of this stuff will work I believe the whole bottle will work much better. He emptied the whole bottle and rubbed it in.

He sat in the tub and in just a few minutes, he yelled at his wife, “Eula Maude!!”

Eula Maude came to the bathroom door and asked him what he wanted.

“Go get the car!” Sid quickly yelled back.

“Sid, are you in the bathtub?”

“Eula Maude, for one time in your life, please do what I’m asking you to do. Go outside, get in the car and drive it to the back door. When you get there, honk the horn.”

Eula Maude quietly went outside, got in the car, drove it to the back door and honked the horn.

Sid jumped out of the tub, ran outside buck naked, jumped on the hood of the car, pulled his legs back and yelled, “Drive woman drive!”

And now every time someone sees the two antique bottles on our bookcase, I get to tell this story.

Conversation pieces.

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