The medicine cabinet of my childhood contained a bunch of interesting stuff. Most of it just isn’t in my medicine cabinet today. First off, there were the true first aid items: Bayer Aspirin — the analgesic of choice — and an oral thermometer. (Today it’s more like Tylenol and Advil.) For tummy troubles, there was Pepto-Bismol (which is still around). And for boo-boo’s there was a bottle of mercurochrome antiseptic and a box of assorted Band-Aids (also a staple) and some Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. (I guess if we boomers didn’t get blottoed by ingesting lead-based paint, we could always rely on the residual build-up from mercury-based topical remedies!) Seems like almost everything that ailed us back in the day was treated with these few items.
The medicine cabinet also housed personal grooming items for both dental care and hair care. I believe our brand of choice was Colgate toothpaste, but other popular brands from that era were Crest, Pepsodent, Macleans, and Gleem. Flouride was just beginning to be added to toothpastes, as recent studies had shown it lowered the incidence of cavities. And then, after brushing, one could use either Lavoris or Listerine mouthwash. But not me, I didn’t like either one — yucky!
The tube of Brylcreem hair styling cream (“for men who care a lot about their hair”) that always sat on the medicine cabinet’s glass shelf looked way too much like the tube of Colgate, and one time — you see where this is headed? — I loaded my toothbrush with the wrong stuff. I’m not a super quick study, but you can bet I never made that mistake again. While all these products had their signature advertising slogans and jingles, I think the one I liked best was “Brylcreem — A Little Dab’ll Do Ya!“. Well, that or the Pepsodent tune that went: “You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent!”
But the Medicine Cabinet Mystique Award would have to go to the shaving mug and brush. Every single morning dad would whip up some lather in that chunky mug, using his shaving brush of lustrous badger hair, then, safety razor in hand, proceeded to eliminate yesterday’s stubble with the grace and precision of a fencer. There wasn’t a single portion of his well-choreographed routine that wasn’t mesmerizing — all the way down to the tiny patch of t.p. he’d apply to a nick to stop the bleeding.
I guess one day, standing there gazing up at this Ballet du Barber, I must have asked just the right combination of questions, because he decided to invite me into the experience. First he lathered my face and then, after removing the double-edge Wilkinson’s Sword blade from the safety razor, gave me my first (and only) “shave”. I loved it. I suspect that if he did this for me, he surely did it at least once, if not multiple times, for my brothers. In fact, when the next generation took to standing by the sink and watching, they too got “the shave”.