Throwback Thursday: How to cheer up a sick person, circa 1929

These days, we advise people to nap and drink plenty of fluids. In the late 1920s, convalescence involved chores.

The 12-hour present pie is literally the gift that keeps on giving.

The 12-hour present pie is literally the gift that keeps on giving.

The issue:
January 1929

The times: Women are legally declared “persons” under Canadian law; the New York Stock Exchange crashes; Martin Luther King Jr. is born in Atlanta.

The best medicine: Chores you can do from your bed. No one would consider 1929 a particularly easy-breezy time in Canadian history, what with the Great Depression and all. So if you happened to contract a bad case of the flu, even your bed-rest probably included some busywork. In her January 1929 piece, “Keeping the Invalid Entertained,” Chatelaine writer Ruth Sayre compiled a few “original, practical and amusing” ways to keep immuno-compromised friends and family members occupied (and mostly content) during their R&R time. “[These tips] give them the assurance that they are still of use in a world temporarily bordered by the grey walls of a sick room,” she said. “The room need not be grey, but can be the gayest, happiest room in the whole house.” So if your husband/friend/roommate can’t seem to shake that strep-and-sinus combo this season, why not try out a few of Sayre’s old-school recovery tips?

1.  Give your patient a very sharp piece of chalk and slate board so they can take telephone messages and plan their suppers, luncheons and tea snacks for the week. Beware of pads and pencils, however —they’re “bendy” and could drop between the invalid’s sheets, never to be found again.

2. Place a small sum of money in the bank account of the sick person in question. As a fun financial exercise, ask them to engage in some bedridden budgeting so they can plan how they’ll spend their windfall once they’re upright and mobile again.

3. Gift them with something called a “12-hour pie,” which is basically a large hat box wrapped in daffodil-yellow crepe paper and filled with 12 presents — one to occupy the patient for every hour of the day. (Trinket ideas include powder compacts, tiny leather notebooks, knee garters and cuticle softener.)

4. Mailbags filled with postcards pre-addressed to the “invalid’s” friends will keep them mentally sharp and social.

5. Wax work, fabric painting, and indexing recipes are other, more tactile examples of sick-person “recreation.” This isn’t a vacation, after all.

Every Thursday, we bring you selections from our archive of 86 years of Chatelaine, featuring weird and wonderful recipes, vintage fashion and décor, and stories that still resonate today. 

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