Sunburns were a consequence of going out in the summer when I was a kid. Back in the Sixties we didn’t have sunscreen like we do today. In fact, we would use Johnson’s Baby Oil more often than not, which was supposed to be really good for getting a tan. So were Coppertone and Bain du Soleil (“for the San Tropez tan!”). We weren’t exactly poltically correct back in those days: the Coppertone bottles used to have a picture of a Native American on them, which I guess was to promise that you’d tan as dark as Sitting Bull if you used the product.
Being one of those Irish kids with a redhead complexion (according to my mother), I never did very well at getting a suntan. Sunburns were no problem, and until I figured out I should cover up as much as possible when I’m out in the sun, I used to get them with alarming frequency. I had so many sunburns, I couldn’t begin to tell you which one was the worst. My folks, on the other hand, had some of the worst sunburns I can remember.
We used to go to Assembly Park in Delavan, Wisconsin on vacation every year. We started doing that when I was going into second grade. Dad would book his vacation for the week before Labor Day, when it was still hot and sunny outside. He loved to play golf, and every morning he would get up and drive over to Lake Lawn Lodge on the other side of the lake, where they had a pretty good golf course, and he would look for a game. One day, he met several of the other men from Assembly Park, and they went off to play. It was a great day, ninety degrees and not a cloud in the sky. On the back nine, Dad decided to take his shirt off and finish the round shirtless. When they were through, one of the guys suggested they go around a second time. A couple of the men demurred, but Dad was up for it, and continued to play shirtless. In total, as I remember the story, he played something like 72 holes of golf, all but the first nine shirtless. When he got back to our cottage, he was a color somewhere between magenta and maroon. Needless to say, he didn’t play much more on that trip. Mom said she couldn’t move in bed, or it would wake my father, who woke up screaming each time. By the time we went home, he had begun peeling and looked like he had some sort of terrible skin condition.
The next year, it was Mom’s turn. She decided she wanted to go back with a glorious tan and spent every available moment out in the sun on a chaise longue, the straps of her bathing suit off her shoulders, smoking Chesterfield cigarettes and reading trashy novels, greasing herself up with Bain du Soleil about every half hour. After three days of this abuse, she woke up and saw she had blisters on her chest. She had gotten a second-degree burn that kept her in for the rest of the week, and ended up going to the doctor and getting some kind of salve that she had to apply three times a day.
And now, a public service announcement…
A suntan looks great, and there are people who spend time in tanning booths to maintain that George Hamilton look year-round. HOWEVER, ultraviolet rays from the sun and from tanning booths can wreak havoc on a person’s skin and can cause skin cancer, or worse, melanoma. That’s a very aggressive form of skin cancer that’s almost always fatal unless it’s caught early. My brother from Mom’s second marriage lost his father to it (a great loss to all of us), Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves lost his mother to it when he was only nine years old, and every year over ten thousand people die from it, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. So, if you spend a lot of time in the sun, wear sunscreen, stay covered up when you can, and watch your skin constantly for any signs of the disease (see the page linked above). Caught early, it’s almost always curable. Please, stay safe.
As always, thanks to Mama Kat for providing the prompts for today’s Workshop (which was, in my case, “Tell about the worst sunburn you ever received. How did that happen?”). She does this every week, and if you’d like to play along, click on the picture above for the rules.