The ageless Irene Downs, who turned 104 on Dec. 12, 2007, is still sharp as a pencil, quick as a whip and funnier than a clown, as she recently celebrated her birthday with her friends at the Christiana Nursing Home.At 104 years old, Irene still has her senses, her wit, and loves to enlighten the group of friends with her mind and spirit as he gives knowledge, jokes, laughter, joy, and enrichment, as she is always the life of the party.
"Irene is a delight to be around," said Audrey Rosen-baum, who is activity director at the nursing home. "She can retain so much information and loves to share it with people. We all love her and are happy she is with us. Joe, you came just in time to have some of my moth-er's gingerbread that she made for me to bring and share with Irene and her friends."
Irene then said, "Gingerbread! We used to make that at home. We used a lot of eggs," she said. Audrey then said that her mother uses pumpkin, molasses, a little bit of ginger and cinnamon and asked Irene what else was used. Irene quickly said, "Cloves!" "That's right, Irene, you know your gingerbread."
"I also know that we used cloves for a toothache. We would make paste out of it and rub it on our gums," Irene laughed.
Audrey then said she recently heard that when babies would be teething they would use vanilla on baby's gums to take the pain away and asked if anyone else remembered any old remedies they used growing up.
I then spoke and told the group that when anyone in the family had an earache my father would roll up a piece of paper into the shape of a funnel, tilt our heads to one side with the hurting ear up high, place the tip of the funnel into the hear. Dad would light the paper on fire so the smoke from the fire would travel down the funnel to melt the wax until it was gone. I said that was a pretty dangerous thing to do, because a few times putting out the fire, we almost set ourselves on fire, as the group all laughed.
Irene then said that castor oil was also potent and very popular when you were sick. "It was some nasty stuff. I hated taking it."
Audrey then said they used to take Taxsoleen for sore throats and asked if anyone remembered the yellow box that had a long yellow and black draft neck on it. You took it with an eye drop down your throat and it would set your jaws tight, worse than a lemon. Sara Miller of compass said for belly ache her family would use catnip. Irene remembered using sassafras tea for colds. "We would go out into the woods and pick up pieces from tree bark and put it behind the stove to dry out and use it for flavoring.
Gracie Madiro of Downing-town then joined in to say her parents used Sloan's liniment for arthritis and also castor oil for everything.
Christel Felsner could only remember using Vicks for common colds, by rubbing it on the chest and back.
Teresa Bradley recalled that when she had the measles, she had to stay in her room in the dark.
Verna Stauffer of Quarryville said Tylenol aspirin was used a lot for headache and warm soup for feeling better. Anna Johnson of West Grove then said salt and war water was used, gargled in our throat.
Irene said they used to have a rain barrel, when it rained the barrel would collect the rain that had salt, and that's what they would wash their hair from because the water was nice and salty.
"We also used mustard plaster," Irene said. "We would buy bustard powder, make a plaster, put it on a piece of cloth and grease your chest and body. It would burn and then we put the plaster on it. Doctor's weren't that available back then. Families had to use their own home remedies and some were passed on from generations," Irene said.
Irene Downs still amazes me at her age. She is a whiz, as you can talk to her about any subject and she will enlighten you more than the subject itself. She is well read and knowledgeable in all matters and current events.
As she sat with a big smile on her face, I asked how she felt being 104. "I feel alright," she said. "It's that I get upset at times because I can't see like I would like to, but I pray and pray that maybe one day I could see better. I can see somewhat, but not enough to make things out," she said.
"the doctor said I had too much laser treatment and that it's a form of radiation that's not good for you. You know, Joe? They say you shouldn't fool with Pictured, Activity Director Audrey Rosenbaum with the ageless Irene Downs; a group picture of Irene's friends: Grace Madiro, Verna Stauffer, Teresa Bradley, Elizabeth Calcasure, Sara Miller, Christel Felsner, Herb Johnson, Anna Johnson, Francis Hager.
Those microwave ovens either. When you set the time on the microwave, then step back, then push the on button. When the flash comes on, that's when the danger exists. When you see the flash, don't look into the oven, don't look at the flash. Don't look into the oven, don't look at the flash, that's the radiation that is exposed, that will affect you," Irene said.
I asked if she thought that's one of the greatest inventions of our time and she said, "Maybe. One of many for this generation," she said. "Since I like to learn and hear the news, I think the newspaper was the greatest thing for me. You learned to read and then knew what went on. Then I would say the radio. When that came along, it kept people's interest and families together to hear the talking. The news, the comedy, the music, the events, etc. Then the TV came along and now you could see what they were talking about. Now they have the Internet that gives you all sorts of information. It's a Gospel device," she said. "People put their business on it. When I asked if that was good or bad, she said, "A lot of it is bad if misused," she replied.
Since she has seen many changes through her 100 years, I asked what changes she could see in the next hundred years. "To me a lot of things are going to go back, not completely. All the bad things have to change. I can't really say when. The things that are going on now, it can't go on much further, with the killing, the wars, the disasters, the inhuman, etc. Therefore, things got to turn around. I think that's what's going to happen.
"I believe it's coming now. Look how many people are suffering and dying from diseases and disaster. I think more people are looking up to the Lord for answers. If you think about it, in every generation things have happened to them and things were cured and things have cleared up. I think the same will happen with this generation. Of course, it won't be in my time, but it will happen. If you look at it, you find that more people are interested in praying and more are praying to find answers. History will repeat itself," she finished.
Until next time, Ciao, Joe D'Angelo P.S. Irene's prediction that history will repeat itself may already be here, as today's doctors and new medicines prove that old home remedies are used to cure new and old illnesses. Most medicines today contain ancient herbs, herbs that were used in ancient China, Japan, Asia, Africa, Europe and even in America's early years.
You've probably heard of the old remedies using garlic, vinegar, onions, fruit skins, flower seeds, oils, honey, etc. Today they are supplemented with herbs to make vitamins to fight off antioxidants, prevent strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer's, aches, pains and cancer, etc.
In a doctor's news report, doctors know they can give patients relief from pain and stiffness with aspirin, Tylenol and ibuprofen. They also know that prolonged use of these drugs can cause bleeding ulcers, liver damage and other side effects. That's why more and more doctors are avoiding these pills and relying on natural remedies like willow bark and cayenne (a very hot red pepper made from dried seeds or fruit of a pepper plant.) It is a wonder that Irene Downs has lived to be 104 years old. Her knowledge, wisdom and experiences with home remedies has survived the times and will always be ageless.