Pastime: Those old Cardui Calendars

A real treat often came between Christmas and New Year’s was when Warren businesses handed out calendars for the year ahead.

By Maylon T. Rice

Almost every drugstore in downtown Main Street gave away some sort of free calendar to be public back in the day.

The most popular was the mass produced Cardui Calendar – a flimsy newspaper-like page of a calendar, designed to peddle a patent medicine popular across the South for “female problems,” from a Chattanooga, Tennessee patent medicine company.

The Cardui Calendar also touted the patent medicine company’s wildly popular but evil sounding (and evil acting) No. 2 cure all – Black Draught, billed as “The Friendly Laxative.” Country kids knew when the tiny black bottle of acrid tasting Black Draught appeared in a teaspoon – things were about to “get moving,” for the next several days.

Cardui was a cheap patent medicine, available over the counter, containing almost 19 percent alcohol (about 38 proof), hence its popularity. In Black Draught, the chemical cascara sagrada, was a stimulant containing chemicals also called anthraquinones that gave color and the laxative effect to constipation.

But back to these colorful, cheap and plentiful calendars, which were most often found in almost every rural home.

These wall calendars carried an accompanying yellow and white border, the red and blue numbers on the monthly grid. When one month ended, you either flipped it over the back, to reveal the new month or tore it off and cast the previous month away.

In my grandparents’ home, you NEVER tore off the previous month, you flipped it over to the next month. Valuable information was written, often in hieroglyphics on the previous month’s page.

I can tell you that the calendar had a place of honor in the front room of a little white house out on Highway 15 (now Highway 63) back in the day. The old one was taken down and the new one went up on New Year’s Day.

It was, I was to learn, more than just a calendar of the future dates of holidays, birthdays, and such.

The Cardui Calendar was also the repository of weather information, future doctor’s visits and other assorted farm activities. Some of this information, say rainfall amounts, might just be added with a number.

Or if my grandmother was letting a hen “set” on her eggs, often a circle with an oddly-shaped mark (I guess designating the hen in the flock) who was sitting on her eggs.

All the Sundays on the Cardui Calendar were in bold, red numbers on the extreme left-hand side where Sunday began the week. The numbers Monday through Fridays were in blue.

Should there be a holiday – say the 4th of July – falling in the midweek – the date was in red, usually with a red, white and blue flag in that space.

Each month the boxes for the individual days were lined with a red-trim around all the entire schematic of days.

Also on the monthly grid was a faithful cycle of the new moon, full moon or first quarter or last quarter of the moon was displayed.

Now the Farmer’s Almanac, which was also free from the drugstores, and hung on a nail before the calendar, was in a place of honor in every home.

The almanac was consulted for the planting in the “light” or the “dark” phases of the moon, but it was not unusual for an annotation such as “sweet taters,” to mark the planting date on the calendar.

The calendar had a weather chart above both the top left and top right of the calendar page, giving a prediction to the weather in store for the month.

Also, each individual date on the calendars had a small “weather flag” in its space, forecasting the weather on that day.

In the vacant spaces on the 42-grid spaces on each month – a smaller month ahead was in one of those spaces and usually some type of Cardui or black-draught “The friendly laxative,” medicine was advertised.

When the page turned, well another weather forecast and a month of special days was ready for next month.

The name of the merchant was imprinted in red on a firm cardboard backing that held the calendar apparatus all together.

This name in my grandparent’s was visible every day, every month for the full year.

Ganaway Drug Store

Main Street

Warren, Arkansas

Telephone Castle 6-3751

One year a new line, Hal Gibbs, Pharmacist, appeared in this set.

Not yet able to pronounce the word “pharmacist,” I asked what that word was after Mr. Gibbs’ name.

My grandmother said he was a druggist.

As I asked why it didn’t start with a “d,” I was told to look it up in the dictionary.

Area banks, hardware stores, sale barns and other businesses also gave away yearly calendars.  I’ll have a specific Pastime about some of those larger, and more colorful calendars once found hanging in and around Warren for a future writing.

Until then, without a calendar on the place, save those tiny ones built into our smartphones. This Pastime will reflect back on how “handy and educational” these old Cardui Calendars were for a country boy.

It is a Pastime I learned what a week was, the days of the week, and when most holidays occurred. And yes, I can today tell time with-out a digital readout from an old round-faced clock on my cell phone too.

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