Sunday, June 6, 2010
425,000,000 bottles sold, the website says. It’s today called a “mouthwash,” with ads which tout its strength, and if memory serves, yea, these decades since I’ve smelled that blast of boozy-mint alcohol aroma, strong it is.
During the Civil War, Dr. Tichenor received a serious wound to his leg, and with the hardships and dearth of proper medicines, the only course was to amputate. He refused the treatment, left the field hospital and somehow found the ingredients to brew up his own “Antiseptic” which, in application to the injury, killed off the gangrene and totally healed the leg.
He began making the stuff in earnest, and it saved many a limb and life during the duration of the War, but his loyalty to the South caused him to flatly deny its use to treat any Union prisoners. I understand loyalty to Country and Cause, but what kind of doctor WAS he, to so go against the precepts and the oath? People were suffering and dying, and he just would not relent.
A wide market for his brew, which originated in Canton, Mississippi, has lasted in one form or usage or another, ever since, with a great heyday for the first hundred years---the Patent Medicine era in our country. I remember it well, for one of the slender flat bottles sat in every medicine cabinet, used for man and beast. It was applied to any kind of ailment or injury, and I do not doubt that it killed the germs, at least. Its 70% alcohol formula would sear the hide off a buffalo, and was widely popular as a “lin-a-mint” and rub for sore muscles, as well as a germ-fighter, before most people were even aware of the little critters.
Oil of peppermint and arnica (which sounds like something Nellie Oleson would have worn for perfume) were the only other ingredients. The label features the famous "Confederate soldiers" picture, and the uses are listed on the other pictures---one "for wounds of any nature" which would not seem to include giving a big dose to a horse, but that remedy is apparently, from all I can make of the label, for "Botts and Foot Ew." Diseases whose time has come and gone, we trust.
And does anyone else think that baby is looking WAY too happily at that BIG spoon?
I don’t think I was ever directly involved in any usage of the antiseptic, but I well remember seeing countless bottles bought and used and tossed on the ground out back of Aunt Lou’s store. I do believe a bottle cost fifteen cents or so when I was very young, and a Co-Cola was a nickel. So gentlemen in need of a little toddy would line up at the store every morning for their bottle of TISHNER’S.
They’d pay for it, with a nickel laid down for the Coke, then detour by the big red cooler wherein resided ranks of glass Coke bottles, the six-ounce size, standing up to their necks in the iciest water in the county, afloat with great shards of just-chipped ice from the big blocks in the ice-house out back. That green linoleum floor would be wet with the heedless trail of the dripping bottles, and Uncle Jake would hit it a few licks with the mop as the morning went on.
And unless the Preacher or a vigilant wife were in sight, the men made no secret of their imbibing---they whsssssssssssped the cap off the Coke at the handy opener, took one big swallow out of the bottle standing right there, and barely made it out the flappy-screen door before pouring in most of the fiery TISH to foam up the Coke and add that ticket to temporary bliss. Depending upon the urgency of their need, they were away to the back yard to the shade, or standing right out there as big as you please, gulping down the undiluted remains of the little flat bottle right there on the porch before drinking down the foaming Co-Cola mixture.
It was a dry county, and “for medicinal purposes only” could cure a lot of ills. I think of those drinkers sometimes, those twenty-cent drunks---their drug of need, if not of choice, was a strange, unappetizing one, like upending the Vitalis bottle or the Turpenhydrate, an equally-noxious concoction, prescribed for my Grandpa’s emphysema.
I think of their hot, nervous mornings, up before the sun, a-jangle with the urgency of their need, waiting in the heat of that gravel road for the jingle of the front-door’s opening bell and the cheap, corrosive gulps of the day’s first drink. And I think of their hot nights of fitful, restless dreams, muttering a presage of that Clarice's memorable last line, "Dr. Tishner---Dr. Tishner--- Dr. Tishner. . ." I wonder what Dr. T. would have thought of that employment of his concoction.
About what I think of his fitness to be a doctor, I expect. Scientist, yes. Doctor----no.