MJ’s Musings: The Watkins Man

If you’ve ever seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you may recall the heroine’s father believed Windex cured everything.

My father believes in this:

Cold season meant Watkins salve was rubbed on our chests instead of the ubiquitous Vicks Vapo-Rub. When I was injured in a snow mobile accident, Dad had me massage my swollen knee with the salve. Mom smears it on her face when she has sinus headaches. Dad uses it to cure boils, erase zits, and heavens only knows what else. It is the family cure-all.

When I was a child, there was a “Watkins Man” who came around with a suitcase full of products (another favorite was horse liniment). In our small town, the Watkins Man was actually a family. The Schuyler family. I remember them well. There was old Mrs. Schuyler with her frizzy gray hair, Harry Schuyler–I never knew if he was a husband or son–with his round wire-framed eyeglasses (this was in the era of horn rimmed spectacles, so I was fascinated by his “old-fashioned” look) and Norma, Mrs. Schuyler’s adult daughter, who walked with a limp.  Once a year or so, the Schuylers would pay us a visit and Dad would restock his salve.

I don’t remember what happened to the Schuylers. We attended the same church, but weren’t “friendly” with them, not like either of the town barbers, the bank president, or the owners of the hardware store.  All I know is that my father hoarded his last tin of Watkins salve.  He didn’t know what to do. The Watkins Man no longer made house calls.

Years later, I was wandering around the state fair when I discovered someone selling Watkins products. I immediately purchase two tins of menthol camphor ointment: one for Dad and one for me. I still have mine, and I periodically use it for all sorts of things. I am my father’s daughter.

By the time Dad was scraping-the -tin-with-a-fingernail low again, the world of on-line shopping had come into being. He complained he was almost out of salve, so I hopped onto the Internet and my favorite on-line retailer. Lo and behold, there’s my Dad’s panacea. The tin has been updated to a more retro look, but the contents remain the same. And Dad is happy because he has his salve delivered right to his door, just like the old days.