The Lifesaving Peach Brandy and Milk

By Dorothy Aldridge Hicks

Some of my most cherished memories of growing up in Alamance County involved my beloved grandmother, Mamie Anderson Aldridge, and her gentle touch. She endured more than her share of heartaches but was always willing to reach out to help others in need. Without her I would not be alive today.

My twin brother Jimmy and I were born prematurely on April 24, 1937. I weighed three-and-a-half pounds and Jimmy weighed only two–and-a-half pounds. The events surrounding my birth were told to me by my parents, Whitted and Corrinna Page Aldridge, my grandparents, Walter and Mamie A. Aldridge, and by a black gentleman by the name of Jim Burton.

Jimmy and I were delivered by Dr. Floyd Scott at the farm belonging to my grandparents, Walter and Mamie Aldridge. After the delivery, Dr. Scott told my mother that at least one twin would probably die.

Upon hearing this, grandfather had Dr. Charlie Anderson, an uncle who practiced medicine in downtown Burlington during the 1930s, 40s and 50s, come to the farm for his opinion. Dr. Anderson examined us and immediately sent Granddaddy to Danville, Virginia to purchase peach brandy (Alamance was then a dry county).

The doctor ordered a cow from the farm to be put in a separate stable, and the stable had to be cleaned every day. The cow could only be fed bran and water and was milked every two hours. The milk was squirted from the cow into sterile bottles and drops of the peach brandy were added.

My twin and I were put in warm water every few hours to keep our body temperature regulated, then placed in large shoeboxes with small hot water bottles surrounding us.

The wood-burning cook stove was kept warm around the clock so that we could be placed on the oven door with our feet facing the open oven to keep us warm. There were no incubators in those days except in larger cities. This process had to be carried out for several weeks by my grandmother.

I’m living today and enjoying good health, largely due to a grandmother’s love. My twin brother also had good health until his death in 1995 at the age of 58.

Memories of my grandmother who helped to save my life are still vivid today. She passed away on June 1, 1973 at the age of eighty-one. The memory of this kind and gentle person will remain with me forever.