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The SDOHC is devoted to documenting the history of the Northern Plains region and the care of previously collected interviews.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Old Wisdom: Power of the Onion

Hoover [H]: Mrs. Griffin, do you remember the flu epidemic of 1918?
Griffin [G]: Do I? Yes, I do.
H: Where were you then?
G: Hecla.
H: Yeah, tell us a little about that.
G: Well it was alarming. I remember once or twice, they had tow or three funerals a day, it just struck you just like that. I was down for a few days and my husband waited on me and my little girl, the one that's in Washington right now was quite ill, had pneumonia. We got through, we pulled through. My husband never... Yes, that was a terrible thing. Quite a number from around Hecla passed away.
H: Did you have a doctor?
G: We didn't for several days and I remember when I took ill, I was just so ill that day I just didn't want to do anything. And they finally had a nurse come, I suppose from Aberdeen anyway. And she took my temperature then and it was 103 and I was around trying to wait on my little girl and trying to get the meals and everything. You didn't feel much like doing it but it had to be done, you know.
H: How long, how long were you sick?
G: Well, just a few days, I don't think I was sick even a week. I don't remember that I was. My husband had a man working for him down at the elevator and we had a doctor, Dr. Parker at the, and when I was ever so sick, he said, well if you know just how to work some onions, I would tell you to put some onion poultice on there. Well, I said I did so we fixed some onions and he told me to put them in a long bag and put that right under her arms, so to speak, the front and back alike. So we cooked the onions and made an onion poultice. Gave her onion syrup, I was a great one for onion syrup. For the cough, you know.
H: How did you make the poultice? There was onions and what else?
G: That's all.
H: Just onions.
G: Just cooked them, just like fried onions only not as hard, you know. you kind of steamed them. Put a little water after you started and put a cover on and steamed them, so they'd be soft, you see. It is a wonder, I still like steamed onions today.
H: Did you put those onions right on the skin then?
G: No, I put them in a thin cloth.
H: I see, yeah. And how did you make the onion for the cough medicine?
G: Oh, you just cooked it on the stove like you would anything else and put a little water with it and steamed them, you know, put a little sugar on them.
H: Yeah, and then that was kind of like an expectorant and make them cough up what they had.
G: Yeah.

The excerpt you just read comes from the South Dakota Oral History Project, number 1542, and is Lillian Griffin at 77 years old being interviewed August 18,1976 by SDOHC researcher Herbert T. Hoover.

To listen to or read more of this interview please contact the SD Oral History Center at Other subjects she speaks of: Family's immigration from Wales, living through the 1930s her and her husband losing their farm and business, religion [Wesleyan], and cooking at the Miltonville Indian School.

- Jennifer McIntyre, SDOHC Digitizer/Curator

THANK YOU! For your continued interest in the SD Oral History Center.

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