Drugs, Plaster, and The Great Purge of 2016


My husband took a week of vacation time, just to spend the whole week on home improvements.  Living in a home built in the late 1800s means you have the joy of some unique architectural features.  It also means that you occasionally spend time wanting to bang your head against the wall, as you wonder what type of drugs people were taking when they embarked on previous repairs. (I use the term “repairs” extremely loosely.)  Fun fact, there were a lot of options, many available via prescription.  If you had the misfortune of being born female, opium was a popular choice for alleviating a wide variety of ailments, including having the temerity to express anything resembling an opinion of your own.  While drinking alcohol was largely acceptable (mostly for men, of course), alcohol-induced violence and outlandish behavior was unacceptable.  Enter morphine, which found ample use outside of its tradition use for pain control. During the latter part of the 1800s and early 1900s, measured doses of morphine were utilized as a (allegedly) safer and less costly substitute for alcohol.  Let us not forget cocaine for pain and/or fatigue.  You could even get your hands on cannabis for “neuralgia, gout, rheumatism, tetanus, hydrophobia, epidemic cholera, convulsions, chorea, [or]hemorrhage”.   (If you are interested in this topic, particularly the history of drug usage, both prescribed and recreational, check out The Drug Library (where I verified the preceding information.)


Of questionable safety–just like all that cocaine you are prescribing

If you ever had the misfortune of redoing horsehair plaster walls, you have my complete sympathy.  Plaster walls require a certain amount of maintenance and I do not think anyone has paid any attention to the walls here since the turn of the century.  Needless to say, the wallpaper hid a multitude of sins.  Over time and exposure to environmental conditions, the plaster weakens and can flake, or fall off the lath entirely.  Just removing the wallpaper exposed random holes, some the size of my hand.  Sadly, you cannot just slap up some plaster and call it a day.  To complete all of the steps, you are looking at a commitment of four days, and that doesn’t even include painting or re-papering. The freshly painted walls, of course, look fabulous, but in all honesty, I think that it was probably more relaxing for him to return to work.


Pictured: The opposite of how we spend a vacation

If you have ever embarked on a journey of home repair, you may notice that once one task is complete, you start noticing all of the other areas that require your attention.  In our case, wall repair led to ceiling fan installation, shelving changes in the closet, moving furniture, and The Great Purge of 2016.  When you live in a home for several years, particularly when you have children and pets, you tend to accumulate stuff.  Lots and lots of stuff.  I am a sentimental type of person.  I love owning ‘old’ things that are well-loved.  I still have my vast collection of Beanie Babies, my mother’s Nancy Drew books, and inherited pieces of furniture, art, and kitchen items.


How do I love these, let me count the ways

While it is not a bad thing to treasure the past, it can become a problem if you have no idea how to use or display certain items.  Thus, they are relegated to storage, along with items one keeps “just in case”.  After a while, you forget what you have and this is truly a sad thing.  So, with the help of my trusty crew, we set forth on a mission to actually go through everything in the entire house.  Many items were donated, others went to the nearest recycling facility, some met their end in the back of a garbage truck, and cherished items are where they belong—on display.  If you can do one thing for yourself today, I suggest sorting through your junk drawer or the nearest pile of random stuff.  I assure you that once you finish, you will feel a strange sense of liberation and empowerment.  And that is better than any drug.



2 thoughts on “Drugs, Plaster, and The Great Purge of 2016

    • I enjoy home repairs, especially as I had some great role-models in that area. As for the information about drugs, some of it was new to me. The way that many of these drugs were dispensed in the 19th century is a bit mind-boggling!


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