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Posts Tagged ‘air conditioning’

I’d be a terrible eye witness, but quite a good nose witness. You could blindfold me and drop me in certain spots and I’d know exactly where I was by the smell. Wouldn’t you? Some memories fade and morph into barely truthful incidents, but not olfactory memories. They remain as sharp and precise as this morning’s coffee. Just the whiff of a familiar scent can replace the present moment with one from long ago.

If one of those buildings you dropped me in was the Rialto Theater in my home town in Texas, I’d know. I’d smell popcorn, cherry coke and an explosion of peppermint gum from dating couples. But most powerful would be the scent of cool “refrigerated air.” The fifties was a time when most restaurants and drug stores had only fans and screened fronts to welcome in and stir the hot Texas air. So “20 Degrees Cooler Inside” was a lure with a palpable scent.

If I say Blue Waltz perfume and your nose doesn’t curl in disgust, then you never smeared it behind your ears and on your wrists. But if you did, I’d know. Oh, I’d know. It sold at the local dime store along side Evening in Paris, which purportedly came from France. If it didn’t, they definitely have grounds for a defamation suit.

Let me catch a whiff of a barnyard and I’m back on the plank walk above the stock pens the night before the auction. I’m on Daddy’s heels as he points out especially noteworthy animals. There were always impatient bulls, Angus, Brahma and Hereford mostly. I never let them out of my site lest they scale the heights. The strange legacy these nighttime walks left me was an affinity for stockyard smells. Which only goes to prove, I suppose, that parental attention is so powerful it can glamorize cow poop.

The pungent medicines and potients of the day are especially vivid. Of course there was Vicks Vapo-Rub and castor oil, the springtime tonic. I don’t know about other families, but we relied heavily on a brown bottle with a most unforgettable scent: Dr. J. H. McLeans Volcanic Oil Liniment. If it sounds like snake oil sold from a wagon, the picture on the label left no doubt. Mother used it to cure everything from growing pains to insect bites and cuts. Ouch! It smelled and felt like turpentine (with good reason). I have a bottle in my medicine cabinet today. My husband bought into my mother’s miracle cure and had her ship bottles to him from Texas so he would always have it on hand. So if I should lose memory of that scent all I have to do is open a bottle. Just having it in the house and smelling it cured many a childhood ache, so what can it hurt to keep it as my magic genie? Scents are that powerful.

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