“Practical Education 1”

In seventh grade we had a wonderful, strict, knowledgeable teacher who thought that at twelve we were able to learn some practical skills. The first course she taught us was Junior First Aid, using a teachers’ manual similar to the one pictured above.

Among things we learned that I have never had occasion to use was how to fold a large square of muslin into a sling for an arm. Pinning it together with a safety pin(I don’t think she trusted our knot skills) we could all treat our peers as though they had just broken their arms. While the boys eagerly volunteered to put slings on the girls, Mrs. McElveny restricted us to same sex applications!

We learned to clean wounds, stop bleeding, remove slivers, and know when to exclaim “that is going to need stitches!” I did have occasion to use that phrase several times in my adult life.

The most important lesson I learned was how to treat choking. Since the Heimlich manuever had not been developed, we were to use a sharp slap on the back of a bent over person. She did not have us practice this since she knew the mayhem that would result. Instead she used a doll as a prop. But some months later I went into the kitchen and saw my four year old sister sitting on the counter, box of dried prunes in her hand, looking stricken. Realizing she was choking, I hauled her down, put her over my arm and hit her hard on the back. The prune came flying out and she was able to breathe.

My sister went screaming to my mother that I had hit her! But I had a good story to tell my first aid teacher who was appropriately impressed.

20 thoughts on ““Practical Education 1”

  1. What a great class. I don’t remember learning anything quite like that but I wish I had. Instead, in my working life, we went to CPR classes. I remember this the most. Point to someone nearby and say, ‘You, call 9-1-1.’ Then tilt head back, check for breathing, if none, blow into mouth. (Would we still do that? I don’t know.) Alternate with chest compressions. I’m not sure I could actually carry any of that out in an emergency, but you never know.


  2. Slings have come a long way since then haven’t they😊. I remember we were told to use a man’s tie if really necessary…..wonder if there’d be one available to use in a crowd these days. Also any petticoats to rip up as writers of historical fiction lead us to believe


  3. I wish every child had this same course in school. It saved your sister. As a teacher, I have to be certified in First Aid and CPR. Yes, there was one time a child choked on a strawberry, and doing the Heimlich was instinctive, like it was with your little sister.


  4. I remember being taught that triangular bandage sling in the Guides. I don’t recall it ever coming up in my first aid course though ten years later when I was nominated as first-aider for our branch library.
    My youngest son was rescued from choking on a pickled egg by his work colleague who applied the Heimlich manoever. He was alone and recalls the moment when he realised he wasn’t going to get out of this one. Luckily his colleague spotted him while passing the door.


  5. I was never taught First Aid at school, and it was good that you were. It undoubtedly saved your sister at the time.
    When I became an EMT in 1979, we were still using those muslin slings ( known as triangular bandages) for many applications, including fractured wrists. It was a long time before they were replaced with more suitable splints.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  6. Wow, Elizabeth. I hope when your sister heard this story later in life, she was suitably grateful. I did several first aid courses when I was in my 20s and teaching aerobics at a local gym. It was a requirement.


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