A collection of The Doc Replies letters sent to The Sunday Post in the 1950s have been published in a new book. And some of them will have you in stitches…
Steve Finan, DCT Media’s Heritage editor, has put together a collection of medical articles and Q&As lifted from The Sunday Post’s The Doc Replies column in the 1950s.
“Medical advice was somewhat different then. Interesting, frightening at times, clever – indeed wise – at times. Definitely different,” says Steve.
“To separate the scary from the wise we had a modern-day GP, Dr Lynda Morton, of Carnoustie Medical Group, take a look at the old stuff. Some of it horrified her, some of it she said was clever and still relevant while other bits just amused her.”
The Doc Replies was the single most popular article in the 1950s Sunday Post – the letters weren’t counted, they were weighed by the sackful. People trusted The Doc.
“Every Friday, GPs and pharmacists would phone The Sunday Post office, asking what The Doc was going to talk about that weekend,” says Steve.
“They knew that on a Monday morning they’d have a queue of people waiting to say, ‘See this in The Sunday Post? I’ve got that!’
“Everyone has ailments they want professional advice on. In those days, doctors (and their receptionists) were intimidating. People would ask questions they were frightened, or too embarrassed, to ask their doctor. Sometimes, they didn’t want to ask their GP anything at all,” he continues.
The Doc Replies, edited by Steve Finan, out now. £11.99. www.dcthomsonshop.co.uk
“The concept of the National Health Service was still quite new. Working class people took a long time to get over the notion that an illness had to be extremely serious before they could “bother” their posh GP in his fancy surgery.
“People felt that it wasn’t their place to go complaining to a doctor. It was easier to write to a newspaper. It’s probably difficult for people born more recently to understand that mentality.”
So what did the modern-day doc make of some of the queries and columns?
“My favourite is the claim: ‘If you lie on your tummy reading as a child you’ll have bad eyesight as the weight of the eyeballs stretches your muscles,’ Dr Lynda smiles.
“The 1950s Doc’s lifestyle advice was what cracked me up the most. ‘Not smoking the last half of the cigarette’ (because that’s the most dangerous bit). And telling one young reader to ‘delay smoking by a year . . . until you’re 17’. These are not the sort of things you’d get away with today.
“I’m pretty certain the 1950s Doc was a male, probably rather chauvinistic, and smoked and was of the generation of doctors whose patients took his every word as gospel.
“It would be easy, of course, to dismiss it all,” she continues. “But there are some real pearls in there which I found amazing, like buying your shoes in the afternoon when your feet are more swollen to make sure they will be comfortable. So obvious and sensible, but definitely not medical advice.
“I must say, though, I dread to think what doctors of 70 years from now will think of us, if medical science changes the way it has over the last seven decades.
“I hope my responses in the book will be taken with the knowledge that medicine is an evolving art and we actually know so little about so many things even in this day and age. I mean… letting fish nibble the skin off your foustie feet! Really!”
The ones they couldn’t print…
Dear Doc. I am at present 54 years old, and have been for the past two years.
Dear Doc. Just around Christmas my mother, who is 76, had a bad bout of influence.
Dear Doc. I think I might have lupins.
Dear Doc. I haven’t seen my wife unclothed for many years and she has run away to Yorkshire.
Dear Doc. I have been informed by my doctor that I may be prostrate.
Dear Doc. My aunt is going mad. She is also rude.
Dear Doc. One of my ribcages has begun to hurt quite badly.
Dear Doc. My wife slapped her sister because she was excited. Now her sister says she has no feelings, but she looks all right.
Dear Doc. Could you tell my doctor he is wrong about me? He is a rather difficult man, so watch out.
Dear Doc. Do all male children get less clever the older they get?
Dear Doc. When I drink a lot my head hurts.
Dear Doc. Is there some place vicars can go to meet nice women who like them?
Dear Doc. My wife passes wind five or six times during the night. Please, what is the cause of this? It is quite bad.
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. Since my husband died I have been quite happy. Should I tell my own doctor, or is it a sign of lunatic?
Dear Doc. Can doctors tell the truth in a court if they are paid?
Dear Doc. I have been married twice. When I am intimate with my husband, it is very different to the way it was before. Are there pills that can give a man more pep? My former husband died.
Dear Doc. I (name supplied) a very good fellow, religious, well behaved, have had a few problems. In my room we had 4 beds and now we have 6 beds. Too many, I guess. Then (name supplied) pissed on me while I was sleeping. He does it on the floor and my bed when I’m not around and still when I’m sleeping he pisses on me again. What can I do? I’m asking the people if they ever had the experience such as I, please write and tell me. OK? Good. When this fellow wakes up he doesn’t remember a thing. What am I to do? I don’t mind an argument, but I hate like hell getting pissed on.
Dear Doc. Could you please tell me if it’s only the men that drink who snore, or maybe most men do? And why. Very worried.
Dear Doc. I have one enlarged testicle which was caused by the string of my pyjamas.
Dear Doc. Would you please prescribe tablets that I could get from a chemist that would help to arrest the acid in the urine, and help me to retain it a little bit longer?
Dear Doc. Should people taking iron tablets have electric blankets on their beds?
Dear Doc. I talk like a girl. Can you get an operation to get stronger or treatment on the NHS?
Dear Doc. I saw my doctor during an attack of asthma. He told me there was a new treatment involving something up the back passage. He did not explain why, or what it would accomplish.
Dear Doc. Can you please solve my problem. Occasionally, when I sneeze several times, my nose begins to bleed quite severely. I have seen a specialist, and was informed that it was just my imagination.
Dear Doc. Can a woman lose her virginity without knowing how she lost it?
Dear Doc. Every time me and my wife have intercourse, she sneezes. What could be the cause of this?
Dear Doc. After lovemaking my husband has a bout of sneezing. His nose runs as if he has a real heavy cold. This clears after a few minutes. Can you tell me if there’s a reason for this?
Dear Doc. We have recently rented a TV set, which is the first time, and have been wondering where to get the advertisements on it. And each of my ankles have swollen up a little bit.
Dear Doc. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your piece in today’s paper about piles. I have just finished reading it and already I feel a different person.
Dear Doc. Before I met my husband he was bitten by an Alsatian. And a doctor told him that he couldn’t produce any children. We have been going out together for a year and we would like to get married and start a family. Is there any chance of him having an operation?
Dear Doc. I have a friend who has been told by his doctor that he suffers from Perferial Neuropathy. Can this be caused by a twist to the neck I received some time ago? Can it be cured? It has left his digital fingers in both of my hands nearly paralysed.
Dear Doc. I went to an ear specialist about my hearing. He asked me about my bowels. He didn’t explain at the time and it has bothered me.
Dear Doc. I will never forget this Hogmanay, as I spent it in jail, my first ever Hogmanay in jail. And I have been bothered with gout for 12 years and my own doctor couldn’t give me anything to help. The prison doctor cured me in two days. I don’t know if he used me as a guinea pig but if he did the stuff he gave me was magic. No wonder the jail is always full, the Christmas and New Year dinner was out of this world. It was the best I had eaten for years, the turkey was just magic.
Dear Doc. I suffer from chronic bronchitis and high blood pressure. My height is 5ft 4 in, and I am 15st, 4lb, which I know is too heavy. I asked my doctor for a diet sheet and his answer was stop eating. I said to him what if I should die and he said start eating again. My doctor should have given me a diet sheet.
Dear Doc. Every so often, my heart goes racing away. It usually comes back after two or three days. But I worry in case I have serious trouble.
Dear Doc. Thank you very much for solving the problem of my organ. The organ was uplifted on Saturday afternoon.
Dear Doc. As a contract fitter I’ve travelled well. Now it seems as if the East Anglian Water Board put a chemical in the water that gives the kidneys aches and pains. Nowhere else in the country do I get this trouble. However, I’ve gone over to spring water and milk. The beer here is the same, so I’m on to gin & tonic.
Dear Doc. Could you let me know what a hyena’s hernia is, as I had something stuck in my throat which I got tablets for and they done no good.
Dear Doc. I’m a young mother and am convinced I’m a hypochondriac.
Dear Doc. Is it true that one section of every brain is kept aside for recording of an everlasting five-sense electric movie of every action each one takes to help another and is exclusive to individual memory playback at the end of each day?
Dear Doc. Is it true that there is no orange in Government-issue orange juice and that it is made of ostrich eggs from South America? And it is brought to Southampton docks on battleships?
Dear Doc. My brother has one leg after the war. If he has children, will their legs be both there? He is 43 and is not married. It was shrapnel.
Dear Doc. Can you get a powder if you quietly tell the chemist that his servant girl would be better?
Dear Doc. Last year you told me to see my own doctor. I didn’t go to see my own doctor and my trouble has never gone away. What can I do now?
Dear Doc. My trouble started long ago, just after I was married. My husband doesn’t know this happened.
Dear Doc. If I wrote to you, could you answer if I didn’t tell you what is wrong with me?
Dear Doc. Is having hives anything to do with being stung by a bee?
Dear Doc. My husband works with fish gutters and still smells of fish even when he is on his holidays. We can’t recognise what kind of fish he smells of.
Dear Doc. You said that wearing high heels was bad for the legs. But my shoes and legs don’t fit unless they have high heels.
Dear Doc. Can I stop my next-door-neighbour building an outhouse that will block light to my garden if I say I am ill from lack of sunlight?
Dear Doc. I often think I used to be a princess of another country. I remember being in a castle and was born in an aeroplane. Could I have been kidnapped and brought to Fife when very young? How could I go about proving this to a legal court?
Dear Doc. I don’t think you were right about the legs. I have had two and this lasted for years.
Dear Doc. Can anything be done for people like my neighbour? I feel very very sorry for her and she now can’t go to church. It’s her head.
Dear Doc. Do “Teddy Boy” trousers make men walk dangerously?
Dear Doc. It started with a pain in my chest but the pain wasn’t really in my chest. I thought it was but my wife said it wasn’t in my chest. Then we went to Canada and came back. Could there be a connection?
Dear Doc. My neck has become fat. I am quite fat in the tummy as I eat a lot of pudding. But my neck is fatter than that.
Dear Doc. Are trench coats dangerous to children? My brother-in-law says they have taken children’s eyes out when flapping in a strong wind.
Dear Doc. When you drink cold milk and your head hurts, does it mean you are going to need false teeth?
Dear Doc. I’m very worried about my husband. He hasn’t been home since September 1952.
Dear Doc. When I was in the Army I swallowed lots of things. What were they?
Dear Doc. Last year, my husband had a twisted bowl.
Dear Doc. If a man was bitten by a vampire bat does he have bad blood and could he be a father? It’s my daughter I’m worried about as she is going to marry him no matter what we say.
Dear Doc. Can a woman get in the family way if she is wearing second-hand clothes?
Dear Doc. Is there any danger to my son if he touched a coffin?
Dear Doc. I have wide legs.
Dear Doc. Our son is very friendly with another boy. Would cold baths help him?
Dear Doc. How many times does the average man breathe in a minute sitting down at about 9 o’clock?
Dear Doc. Several extended areas of my wife have turned brown.
Dear Doc. If they dropped the atom bomb on us, which room in my house would be the safest?
Dear Doc. I am 23 and still want to grow taller. It is important because my brother is taller.
Dear Doc. Would it be possible to stop the spread of flu at the English Channel if no one ever went there again?
Dear Doc. Is Dr Finlay on television real?
Dear Doc. Do doctors get powders that stop them getting ill? Can ordinary working folk get the powders or is it secret?
Dear Doc. You said that people who get cancer are very serious. But in Japan they have people who don’t get cancer and they live for hundreds of years.
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.
Dear Doc. Would you be allowed to tell me what is wrong with my friend? She is my best friend.
Dear Doc. When my son walks, his heels hardly touch the ground. My husband doesn’t like it so would it help if he carried an Army knapsack? It is a large-sized one and we have filled it with sand but not all the way up. It isn’t really from the Army and he paid four shillings for it.
Dear Doc. Is it against the law to grow your hair long if you live in Scotland?
Dear Doc. I would like to wash one of my son’s schoolfriends. Would this get him or me in trouble with his mother?
Dear Doc. I have a rash on my chest, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, fingers, tummy, back, shoulder blades, neck and head. It is closely pointed red and inbetween normal. I have had it for four days. Is it right to be red or should I have another colour?
Dear Doc. I have never had this before. My mother thinks she had it about 20 years ago and it went away. Do all women get it?
Dear Doc. If I eat cold ox’s tongue will I be able to swallow it?
Dear Doc. I have never had anything wrong with me but now I do. I have just turned 30. Is this something I should see my own doctor about?
Dear Doc. Can I get an operation on the throat that would make me a better singer?
Dear Doc. Very few people get coughs now and they used to. Is this a sign of better health?
Dear Doc. A lorry wheel ran over my foot. I have no complaints but cannot walk.
Dear Doc. How long does it take between gestation and evacuation of a baby if you can’t remember when you started it? I have a fair idea but not sure.
Dear Doc. I am having to move to Stevenage. Can I still see my doctor by going on the train and I don’t know where the station is?
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.
Dear Doc. You will probably remember I wrote to you in 1951 about my husband’s lungs. I am sorry to inform you he is now dead. The minister mentioned your part in curing his illness at the funeral, which was nice.
Dear Doc. Is having six toes normal? He is aged 12 (next birthday) so could he have an operation?
Dear Doc. My husband has a gap where his bottom used to be.
Dear Doc. I went to my own doctor but could not bring myself to tell him he is a man.
Dear Doc. How much should I spend on a good pair of shoes for Sundays? They would have to be black.
Dear Doc. I have been bringing up phlegm that is bright yellow and I am quite worried about it. I have enclosed a hankie to show you the phlegm, although I notice that as it is drying it becomes more green in colour.
Dear Doc. I have a rash over my chest and upper arms. I’ve enclosed some of the scabs.