THE NIT NURSE

It is surprising how today’s fashions are “yesterday's” horrors, I am relating this, particularly to the modern hair style, which a lot of young men sport, at the time of my writing this. In fact there is so little hair that it is an exaggeration to describe it as a style, I am referring to the shaved head. I was in the company of a young lad recently and without thinking I said to him that in my childhood days, such a hair style would be an indication that the wearer’s head had been invaded by ring worm, and that the only thing missing was the tell tale circle of gentian violet, which was a vivid purple colour. Luckily for me, he took it in good part and we had a good laugh about it.

On reflection it seems that only the boys were so afflicted, I cannot remember any girls having this humiliating condition, and the poor lads were left with a very short fringe, fronting a shaved head, embellished with purple rings.

When I was at school, word would get round that the a visit from the “nit” nurse, was imminent. Sure enough within a couple of days a bustling figure would come into school, dressed in a navy blue serge uniform, and class by class we were all lined up for the dreaded inspection. The nurse always seemed to be very old to me and none too gentle in her zealous search for the offending creatures, she would rifle through our hair with a small tooth comb. Oh! the relief when the “all clear” was given. If some children did have the misfortune to house these unwelcome visitors, then the dreaded white card was handed to the child, to take home to his/her parents, with instructions on how to get rid of this pestilence. I remember seeing quite a few of my fellow class mates in tears, clutching the white card, whilst the nurse bustled out like a galleon in full sail.

I used to feel sorry for these children, as is now, youngsters could be so cruel to each other.


I had long hair at the time, and it was a regular exercise, on bath night, which was usually Saturday, for my Mother to spread a sheet of brown paper on to the table and bend my head unceremoniously over this paper. She would drag a tooth comb, which had very small teeth, and was made of metal through my hair, however much I protested, wriggled and sometimes cried, she was relentless in her search, for the dreaded nits. I then would have to have my hair washed in “Durbak” soap, which was made especially for the purpose of deterring these creatures from making my head their home. It was horrible stuff and smelled vile. One Saturday night, I was going through this ritual, when I heard a gasp of horror, from my Mother, despite her vigilant efforts, I had NITS. They were soon evicted, some evil smell lotion was poured on to my head, rubbed well in, and none too gently either, I then had to sleep with a towel tied round my head to protect the pillowcases. The next day, the ritual was repeated and by the time Monday morning came, the nits had been banished for ever. I did feel sorry for my little brother John, who would be about two years old at the time, he did not escape either, from this gruelling procedure.  Although being a lot smaller than I was, he was like a little eel wriggling about, with a squeal which would have put a pig to shame.   

                                               music - "Glow worm" ~ Glinka