At the start of the the school term in 1938 The County Borough of Doncaster Education Committee produced a guide for parents called ‘The Health of the Child during the 1930s’.
“Dear Sir or Madam the Education Committee want your your child to have a healthy body as well as a trained mind,” it read. A doctor will examine your child at intervals and your child will not get the full benefit unless you see he or she leads a healthy life at home.
Sleep: Children require much more sleep than is generally supposed. From age five to 11 at least ten hours of sleep is wanted. The bedroom window should be open, night air will do no harm and is often purer than day air.
Teeth: A great deal of ordinary ill health is due to bad teeth, indigestion, anaemia, loss of appetite and defective growth can often be traced to this cause. Crusts to eat or bones to pick should be given and the last meal of the day should include a raw apple or celery or a small bit of carrot, failing this a hard crust followed by a drink of water not milk.
Handkerchiefs: Every child at school should be provided with a pocket handkerchief and taught how to use it. Wiping the nose is not suffiecent, the child should be taught how to blow it thoroughly.
Breathing: Through the mouth can cause injury causing frequent colds and lead to deafness and dullness which may be due to obstructions in the nose and throat.
Verminous Condition: Everything possible must be done to get rid of this eveil. Your child will be less likely to catch anything if it wear’s it’s hair short as possible, clipped short for boys and as short as convenient for girls. Mothers should examine heads every night and thoroughly wash hair once a week. If any nits are found pull them off with the fingers or cut off the hair with them on.
Habits: Teach your child to go to the closet first thing in the morning every day. Constipation is often due to the neglect of this habit. Syrrup of figs, senna and treacle are all safe drugs, but should not be taken regularly. Cold water before dressing in the morning, uncooked fruit, figs, boiled onions or vegetable soup, coarse oatmeal porridge and treacle are all good for constipation and should be encouraged. Always wash hands after visiting the closet.
Breakfast: Porridge with milk, wholemeal bread and butter or dripping, a lightly boiled egg, toast and dripping or bread dipped in bacon fat are all good for the child. A fresh herring is good so is a rasher of bacon.
Dinner: Tripe and tender liver are cheap and nourishing, sausages are not cheap and they contain too much bread.
Tea and Supper: Never give children pickles, vinegar, highly seasoned or tinned foods. If they get a taste for them they will not want to eat plain wholesome food.’
So there you are, 70 years on and the nit nurse may be gone but nits are still with us.
How many children would these days relish a nice piece of bread and dripping, or some dry crusts to eat, maybe even bones to pick and how many nutritionists would recommend givintg them bread dipped in bacon fat? Many people loved these delicacies and it didn’t seem to do them much harm - I suspect others may disagree!