I’ve been home with a cold this week, a thing that always makes me revert to childhood: How many times I remember my mother coming into my room late at night or early in the morning, treating me with Vicks VapoRub and tucking me in tightly! That was always the last thing I remembered for the night: Vicks ended the cough and let me sleep. Mom is long gone now, but when I’m sick I still wrap myself in the heavy afghan she loved, and it feels almost like she’s tucked me in again, and I still use Vicks. Give me my Vicks and my afghan, and it doesn’t matter what else works or doesn’t work – I’ll survive any siege of sickness.
In another time and place my go-to comfort might have been the English-manufactured Meggezones. George Meggeson was a London chemist (pharmacist), in business as early as the 1790s. One authority says that Meggeson was a “pioneer in sugar-based lozenges and was one of the first to make medicated pastilles” – in other words, he invented the cough drop, by adding menthol to a candy base that, according to a contemporary advertisement, lasts “long enough to release [its] numbing effect on very dry tickles and hoarseness. [This helps] to soothe the inflamed larynx which can be the cause of voice loss.”
For some 50 years, George Meggeson, assisted by his unmarried daughters, lived above his chemist’s shop on Cannon Street, described as then “being so narrow that one could almost shake hands across the street,” dispensing the syrups and pills he manufactured at his factory on Bermondsey. The firm eventually passed out of family hands, but continued to thrive through much of the 20th century. It is now owned by the multinational company Schering Plough, and its lozenges, marketed under the brand name Meggezones, can still be ordered online (I’m wary of linking to online pharmacy sites, but they’re there).
And the Mormon history connection?
While manufactured in England, Meggezones were also available in New Zealand, which is where Jessie Evans Smith – wife of apostle and church historian, later President Joseph Fielding Smith – discovered them while on a mission tour in 1958. Sister Smith, who was a singer, a longtime soloist with the Tabernacle Choir, suffered from a dry throat on that trip. When someone handed her a Meggezone, a fan was born. “They’re the best thing I’ve found for the throat,”she reported. She came home from that trip with her bags loaded with Meggezones.
She was so enthusiastic about the lozenges that two years later, when Robert L. Simpson (soon to be called as a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric and later to the First Quorum of Seventy) was released as president of the New Zealand mission, she asked him to bring her a new supply. He did – enough to last her two years.
She ran low again in 1962. What to do, what to do? This time she appealed to men who were traveling from New Zealand to Salt Lake City to attend April Conference. President Wendell Wiser (Hamilton Stake), President Geoffrey R. Garlick (Auckland Stake), and Bishop William Ngakuru (Auckland Ward) all stuffed their bags and pockets with as many boxes of the cough drops as they could carry, which they delivered to Sister Smith in Salt Lake, in company with Bishop Simpson.
I don’t know what Sister Smith did when that supply was gone, but for a few years, at least, this is what kept her singing.
Stay well out there.