The Fact of the Matter Is. . .
From the Files of Gustavus Historical Archives & Antiquities (GHAA)
www.GustavusHistory.org - by Lee & Linda Parker
Q - So, last month we learned that scoliosis of the spine was caused by school children sitting twisted at their desks. What other healthful hints were our homestead children being taught?
A -. Plenty and more—as we continue part 2 in a 3 part lesson from Bert Parker’s 7th grade level text “The Body and It’s Defenses” from the Gulick Hygiene Series, copyright 1910.
Muscles, we find, are governed in the same way as bones. And we learned that “bones may be changed by what they are compelled to do”. So, if you want your bones “larger and rougher, you may travel a straight road to that definite end. Work the muscles fastened to these bones; work them hard; be persistent and the result will come”. The spine at work is “that pile of 32 small bones that holds a head erect, keeps ribs in place, and guards the treasure of the spinal cord”. The muscles of the spine are the “dumb-bells and pulleys” that keep the pile of 32 connected together. And dumb-bells and pulleys can be exercised to achieve whatever needs corrected. Except in old age, where one must not risk a tumble due to increasing levels of lime, making the bones so brittle as to crumble like ashes.
But, alas! There are practical, first hand examples how younger folk can take immediate steps to prevent problems down the line. A 12 yr. old “was getting a hollow chest”, until the author told her how she could save herself. “It will be hopeless after you are twenty,” he says. She would have to work fast while her bones were still pliable. He prescribed “raise your chest with vigor, fill your lungs with air, hold yourself in that position for as long as you can, and do it many times a day”. He promised if she would repeat this regimen to and from school everyday, that she could compel her bones to take the shape she would be thankful for the rest of her life. The result? She practiced so faithfully that remarkably within a month the curve of her chest had improved!
Indeed, the state of the muscles must be watched over very carefully in youth—from flat chest to flat feet. To punctuate the necessity of early intervention, the book warns that multitudes of grown men and women would be abhorred “if they were obliged to uncover and show the shape of the feet they have secured for themselves”. Being flatfooted, for example, was considered a very serious health matter—and luckily, one more thing within the student’s control. The children were instructed to dip their bare feet in water and press on blotting paper. That way “you will soon know if you must immediately begin the exercises necessary to remedy a flat foot”—a required correction if one hoped to enlist in the military in defense of country. The fix-it program for flat feet? The students are assigned the treatment of rising high as they can on tiptoes and maintaining that position 100 times, twice a day. In addition, they are admonished never to wear tight garters (restricts circulation), to wear tan (not black) shoes to keep from overheating, and not to lace their shoes so snugly around the ankles. Ankle sprains “that pull foot ligaments from their fasteners” were to be avoided at all costs because undoing the “fasteners” would simply make everything to do with flat feet (or other foot conditions) even worse. And buttoning them back up again might not be possible—though here I confess I am adding my logical reasoning to the outcome.
A wide range of debilitating disease and social ills is directly attributed to the cigarette and alcohol habit. The heart and lungs take a convincing hit—topped off with a dull red nose overcharged with blood. The message is clear—do not smoke or consume alcohol. These “health laws” must be strictly kept to maintain ones phagocytes (white cells) in marching order. Case study where phagocytes did not march: A man and a 13 yr. old boy were bitten by the same mad dog. The boy suffered severe wounds to his face and head while the man had a small bite on one hand. They were treated immediately and identically. The boy recovered and the man died. The only difference between the two? The man used alcohol and the boy did not. Thus, “a man who raises his glass and drinks to the health of his king or his friend, drinks in truth to the success of disease”. Remember that next time you participate in a friendly toast.
Next month—the experiments. Oh my.