I coveted the blue bottles

Nov. 9, 2017

Fall has its own slants of light, and they are especially beautiful when filtered through the blue glass on my windowsills.  To me, my bottles and jars are as pretty as any stained glass window in any cathedral in the world.

Some of my favorites once contained “Noxzema,” the popular skin cream invented by a Maryland doctor named Townsend who called it “Townsend R22.” The formula later ended up with Dr. George Bunting who sold it as a sunburn remedy, but changed the name to “Noxzema” when a happy customer reportedly claimed it had cured his eczema.  Of course I wasn’t the least bit interested in that information when I was a child collecting bottles and jars -- any more than I cared that Noxzema was once called “the miracle cream of Baltimore.” I just wanted the pretty blue glass.

Lunsford Richardson, a pharmacist from North Carolina, developed what we know as “Vick’s Salve” or “Vaporub” for babies with croup. He named it after his brother-in-law, Dr. Vick. Its original name was Vicks Croup and Pneumonia Salve.  None of this history mattered to me either when, as a child, I was slathered in Vicks Salve, or even made to swallow a lob of it if I had a cold. I just wanted to hurry and use up the salve so I could make off with the empty jar.

Although I allowed myself to be coated in Noxzema for sunburn and Vicks for congestion, I drew the line with Milk of Magnesia.  I wanted those cobalt bottles, but not badly enough to swallow the nasty medicine.  My solution was to ask customers who bought the remedy at Daddy’s store to save me their empties.

Empty bottles can hold a lot of memories.

Marian Carcache

Carcache  welcomes comments at carcamm@auburn.edu.