An ugly baby brings on spring chills

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 22, 2001

Features Editor

When it comes to favorite places to eat, Smokehouse Barbecue in Springhill is up high on my top-ten list.

The other night I was sitting there waiting for my jumbo barbecue and fried sweet potatoes to be served, when I turned around and was face-to-face with the ugliest baby in the world.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

I let out a soft, shrill screech as nightmare memories of my childhood overtook me.

How many times had I seen that ugly baby’s face on the bottle coming toward me. My mother would have a bottle of Grove’s Chill Tonic in one hand and a large spoon in the other.

I would kick up my heels and run and hide – usually under the bed.

Mama would try to switch me out with a keen peach tree limb, but I wouldn’t budge.

"She’ll come out t’ reckly," I would hear my grandmother say.

T’reckly is a long time when you’re under the bed. I spent a good bit of time counting the slats and bed spring coils, but most of the time I thought about that ugly baby on the Grove’s Chill Tonic box. What I figured was that there must have been this big baby contest. The baby who was judged the cutest and sweetest got his picture on Gerber baby food jars. The one who was the ugliest and meanest got his face on Grove’s Chill Tonic. I would never forget that ugly baby face nor that awful, bitter tonic taste.

And, now here I was – many year later – once again face-to-face with that ugly baby at Smokehouse Barbecue.

I snatched the chill tonic box off the shelf and read the label: Grove’s Chill Tonic – for malaria and resulting chills and fever. Pleasant tasting and effective.

I never had malaria in my life! Did Mama pour that terrible stuff down my throat just to torture me?!

Effective ? Maybe, because I never got malaria, but pleasant tasting? My foot! Grove’s Chill Tonic was the most awful dose that one could endure – except maybe for Castor Oil.

Every spring, Mama got after me with a bottle of Castor Oil in one hand and a spoon in the other. Spring tonic was what she called it and "tonic" was my cue to high-tail it.

Castor Oil was supposed to get out the impurities that had gotten in my body during the winter – pin worms in particular.

I was sure I didn’t have pin worms.

I would have known if I had worms crawling around on me or in me and I would have fallen over and died. I was sure of that, so I ran like the wind from Castor Oil.

Once when I was hiding under the kitchen table from the bottle and the spoon, I heard my mother and grandmother talking about pin worms.

My mother said when she was a little girl the health nurse came to the school and brought little paper boxes and gave them to all the children, who were supposed to "bring something back" in them. One girl forgot to "bring something back," so she pinched off "something" from a baked sweet potato she had in her lunch sack. When the reports came back from "something," the little girl had pin worms.

My mother and grandmother laughed about that. Years later I realized why.

When I had children of my own, pin worms came up out of the blue one hot, steamy day.

Sis and I were passing a glass of tea around among our children -as we often did. Our friend Bannie was there.

When the glass of tea was passed to my daughter, Bannie said, "Don’t drink that!"

"Why," my little daughter asked.

"Because – ah,

you’ll get –

pin worms," Bannie said with a stern, serious look.

A short time later on a visit to the pedeitrician, my daughter spotted a poster

that read: Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief. Doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief. ANYONE can have pin worms.

"But not me," my daughter said. "I don’t drink tea!"

Staying away from "tea" saved her from having to endure the misery of spring tonics – that, and the fact that she has never again eaten or drunk after anyone.

Perhaps, in their time, spring tonics served a purpose. But the late Doc Littleton said spring tonics are alright to give to somebody else, but you don’t want to take none yourself.


– and amen to that!


Contact Us

Letters: Send your commentary to the Troy Messenger.

News tips: Have a story or tip for our staff?

Subscribe: Get the Troy Messenger delivered to your door or mailbox.