Remember when you could get a doctor’s appointment?

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You might have noticed that visiting your doctor isn’t quite like it used to be (now there’s an understatement!). But we still have many of the same ailments as we used to. We’re still suffering, even if we can’t talk to a doc.

Actually, while we’re on the subject of health, how are you? Do you feel well? Have you shaken off that cough? Are you sleeping well? Are your feet OK? How’s your heart? Are you eating properly? Is there anything worrying you?

Wouldn’t it be good to have a doctor answer all those old queries you used to have?

And, when you look back, wasn’t it all so different when we were young? Your doctor used to keep you right.

A new book, The Doc Replies, is a collection of articles, questions and answers that were published in newspapers in the 1950s. There is good advice, there are useful tips, there is stuff you definitely should NOT do, and there is a good dose of humour.

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Some of the questions were a bit . . . odd.

Dear Doc. A lorry wheel ran over my foot. I have no complaints but cannot walk.

Dear Doc. I went to my own doctor but could not bring myself to tell him he is a man.

Dear Doc. I haven’t seen my wife unclothed for many years and she has run away to Yorkshire.

Dear Doc. I think I might have lupins.

Dear Doc. Could you tell my doctor he is wrong about me? He is a rather difficult man, so watch out.

Dear Doc. My doctor’s woman is very rude and tells everyone out loud what is wrong with people. I’m not going back until I die and neither is my wife.

But then, there was wisdom too. The best way to be comfortable in bed is to have a cool head and nose, and warm feet; the way you walk has an effect on how long you’ll live; and there were certain precautions to take when sugar came off the ration.

There are 304 pages of good, bad, questionable and outlandish advice, with comments from a modern doctor on some of the more of-their-time suggestions — like smoke 15 a day if you have a cold, and the best way to avoid being bitten by fleas when you went to the cinema. And, take heed, there are household jobs your husband shouldn’t let you do if you’re a woman!

It is a book that is entertaining, useful, dangerous, full of nostalgia and full of people like us, the way we used to be.

It’s probably the most entertaining medical book that has ever been written.

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The Doc was the single most popular feature in The Sunday Post when the paper was recording world-record circulation figures. So influential was it that pharmacists and GPs would phone, asking what The Doc was to talk about. They knew that, on Monday, they’d have a lengthy queue of patients saying: “See this in the paper? I’ve got that!” It is a collection of those 1950s medical articles, and Q&A sessions in which ordinary folk revealed their health worries.

Examples of the questions sent to the 1950s Doc:

Dear Doc. Is it possible that I am happy and quite big?

Dear Doc. Could I have a pain in my back after falling and fracturing my lumbar spine?

Dear Doc. I am at present 54 years old, and have been for the past two years.

Dear Doc. Can a woman lose her virginity without knowing how she lost it?

Dear Doc. My wife passes wind five or six times during the night. Please, what is the cause of this? It is very bad.

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The Doc would write articles in the 1950s, passing on his wisdom.

Here are a few of his thoughts on smoking.

“Tobacco helps the digestion. It increases the flow of juices. For this reason a man who smokes after a meal gets a definite benefit. He’s getting the juices to work, and he’s sitting still. That extra ten minutes of sitting down is one of the most valuable helps to a good stomach there is!

Not only that. You’re less likely to be constipated with a cigarette after a meal. In cold weather, smoking actually warms the body by improving the surface circulation. Smokers don’t get colds or flu so often — because they get rid of phlegm more easily.

A cigarette or pipe at the right time can be extremely good for the nerves. It’s a godsend in calming emotion or quieting nerves after an accident.

For this reason it’s good for shy folk.”

The Doc would write articles in the 1950s, passing on his wisdom.Doc Replies Women

Here are a few of his thoughts on jobs women shouldn’t do.

“It’s the man who should lift the sofa nearer to the fire. His lower back is straighter and that makes him better fitted to make a straight lift. At the worst, he may pull a muscle, but a woman can easily suffer a serious internal injury.

The man should wash the outside of windows. It’s not only a strain on the back, but the job usually needs a head for heights – and the average woman hasn’t got that.

Many women struggle and strain to open jars with screw-tops or stoppers. They shouldn’t. They don’t have the necessary strength in fingers and wrists. Even such a small thing as winding the clock should be the man’s job. His stronger fingers give him a better “feel” of the winding, and he’s less likely to overwind.”

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More letters sent to The 1950s Doc. To many of them, there was just no answer!

Dear Doc. Do male children get less clever the older they get?

Dear Doc. Is there some place vicars can go to meet women who like them?

Dear Doc. If I wrote to you, could you answer if I didn’t tell you what is wrong with me?

Dear Doc. Every so often, my heart goes racing away. It usually comes back after two or three days.

Dear Doc. I went to my own doctor but could not bring myself to tell him he is a man.

Dear Doc. My wife wrote to you but has had no answer. You do not now have to answer her as she died this morning.


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Some of the 1950s Doc wisdom was pretty good. Here are a few thoughts from the Doc on getting a good night’s sleep.

“Anybody who’s a slow sleeper can usually benefit by taking a hot drink and hot foot bath half an hour before bedtime. We all have our natural bedtime. That’s when the heartbeat slows down and the pulse rate and body temperature fall. Your time may be 10.30, mine might be midnight.

Whatever their time, slow sleepers should stick to it. Everybody who doesn’t sleep well should use a really soft pillow. It doubles your chances of dropping off quickly. Irritating pressure against the ears is reduced to almost nil. Most of us sleep on our right side. But here’s a tip.

Start off on the wrong side! Two minutes is enough. Then over you go. Even a little thing like that can help a lot. Fresh air, too, is essential to sound sleep. But don’t open the bedroom window until you’re ready for bed. And you’ll not sleep well if you have the bedclothes high – that is, over your head. Warm feet, cool nose and head – that’s the thing.” /

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Here’s the Doc’s advice on looking after your feet — very important, your feet.

“How Often Do You Cut Your Toenails? That’s a number one question in summer.

For, believe me, a third of all summer tiredness comes from the feet!

On a hot day, once your feet “give up”, your whole body becomes tired before another fifteen minutes have passed.

So, you see, we’ve simply got to look after our feet. A woman came to me complaining of bad feet.

“S’funny thing, doctor, because I’ve got sensible shoes with a good support for the arch,” she told me.

That was her trouble. Too much support for the arch is not good.

There should always be a little space between the sole of a shoe and the arch of the foot.

Otherwise you don’t get the natural spring of the foot – and the whole art of walking is spoiled.” /

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The Doc also had wise words on how to live a long life.

“In your forties eat only three-quarters of what you ate in your thirties. If you don’t your bowels, kidneys and liver will go sluggish. The waste matter isn’t disposed of as it should be.

You slip away from your prime. Never say “I’m getting on, you know”. Keep up with the news. Have friends of all ages. Be tolerant of younger opinion and especially new ideas. And never lose pride in your appearance. Be as particular about your teeth, haircuts, polished shoes, as you were in your courting days.

Now here’s a most important point: be as smart as you can in your walk. Keep the shoulders back. Don’t allow the stride to shorten. If you give way, your abdomen muscles get flabby. The stomach becomes less efficient in extracting the good from food. And the quality of your blood falls.” /

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The 1950s Doc gave advice to people who wrote in.

Here are his thoughts on troubles with teeth.

December 16, 1956 — I’m 18 but my teeth are heavily filled. I know I can’t hope to keep them

much longer, but I don’t like the idea of a full set of dentures. Can at least a few teeth be put into

the gum without a plate? No. Some sort of frame or plate is necessary to give satisfactory

mastication. Your dentist will keep you right.

June 30, 1957 — I’m having 16 teeth out with gas. My fiancé has offered to take me afterwards to my home – about 80 miles away – on his motor cycle. Would this be quite safe? It would be most unwise, in my opinion, even in good weather. At least 24 hours’ rest is desirable after such extensive extraction.

August 24, 1958 — My dentist told me my gums were receding. Is there any way receding gums can be checked? Regular gentle massage of the gums with tooth paste may improve them.

Ageing gums always recede a bit.

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Here’s some 1950s advice on what’s good to eat.

July 28, 1957 — Can you tell me if eating raw oatmeal can do any harm?

Not if you’ve a good balanced diet in other respects and have a healthy digestion.

May 26, 1957 — Is there any advantage in tea without sugar and milk?

Without sugar, it tastes more refreshing and you won’t put on weight. Without milk, it can be a little irritating to the stomach.

August 13, 1950 — What foods shouldn’t be eaten on an empty stomach?

Grilled cheese, fries, pastries, suet pudding, sauces, pickles, new bread.

September 11, 1955 — I’m 70 and can’t stand the cold. Is there anything I can take?

Eat plenty of butter or margarine, and drink milk. Fatty meat in moderation will also help.

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The 1950s Doc would also give practical advice for life’s problems.

Here’s how to make sure you are only ever stung in a GOOD way by a wasp or bee.

“A wasp lands on your arm and you brush it off. It stings instinctively.

But that’s not half so bad as the sting of a very angry wasp. 

If, for example, you try to swat a wasp in the kitchen, up goes its dander.

Its poison is far stronger. It’s the same with bees. 

A sting from a bee on a flower is nothing compared to a sting from a bee disturbed near a hive.

This bee has a stronger poison. And gives a bigger dose, too! 

So make it a rule on holiday — never swat a wasp, or bee.”

Buy the book HERE

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