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Now browsing: Hometown News > Opinion > Brevard County

Sassafras tea and 'The Wizard of Oz'
Rating: 1.47 / 5 (17 votes)  
Posted: 2013 Aug 09 - 06:34

By Michael G. Hibbard

Last week, my editor called work to say she was bringing in "Munchkins" for us.

I wondered what this was about, why we were going to have "Munchkins" for breakfast and asked if "Munchkins" may be, in today's world, a politically incorrect word - "follow the Yellow Brick Road," and all that.

My editor finally arrived with a box of doughnuts, that my generation and I call "donut holes" in a box. We ate the entire box.

Everyone was surprised that I didn't know that "Munchkins" were breakfast donut holes. But, hey, I've never had a cup of skinny mocha frappuccino either. The only thing I know about that is that when the cars are lined up at Starbucks in the morning on the way to work, the stock market is doing well, and life is good for somebody.

This morning doughnut episode, however, did give rise to another "Mikie Story," much to the chagrin of several of my co-workers. But, how could I not tell the story of "The Wizard of Oz" and the sassafras tea?

In 1939, movie theatergoers saw their first major motion picture in color in theaters across the nation. It was "The Wizard of Oz." The first half of the movie, starring Judy Garland as "Dorothy," was filmed in black and white; and the second part of the movie, when "Dorothy" arrived in magical "Oz" and was greeted by the small-sized "Munchkins," was filmed in living color. (Footnote: The first major motion picture, filmed totally in living color, shown in theaters right after that, was "Gone with the Wind," starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland. It was an epic production about the American Civil War that has awed moviegoers to this day.)

My mother was in her 20s when she saw both of these movies for the first time. The emotional result of seeing these motion pictures in color on the big screen has been compared to that of watching the Beatles on television in 1963, the American moon landing in 1969, being at the first Woodstock, Richard Nixon resigning as president and 9-1-1, although not all of these were good emotions for us.

Remember though, that that generation in the 1940s, came to the aid of the world in World War II, working at home and abroad, defeating the Axis powers around the world and making it a better and safer place to live.

Back to the story

As a result of our parents upbringing and these movies, I suppose, my sister and I, growing up in small-town America, were required, but anxious, every spring and fall, to watch "The Wizard of Oz" movie on television. Everyone at school knew what day and what time the movie was to air. (There were only three television channels available to us at the time). Everyone I knew thought it was always a great movie and watched it. In our house, every time the movie went from black and white to color, we were always impressed, even though color television had been around for a long time.

The sassafras tea

Supposedly, sassafras tea, we were told, had medicinal properties. You could dig up the roots for free and boil them. If you drank the tea in the spring, it would thin your blood for the summer months. If you drank it in the fall, it would thicken your blood for the cold, winter months, kind of like 5W40 motor oil for your car. We never questioned the contradiction; we just drank the tea when we watched the movie, at least maybe a cup, or so, of it.

Somewhere along the way, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided that sassafras tea was bad for you. It still may be used some places for medicinal purposes or in microbreweries. I am not sure.

A few years ago, at a place I lived, sassafras grew wild along a fence line, near a lot of poison ivy.

I dug up the sassafras and tried to cut up the roots for tea, but it was like trying to cut a 2X4 with a butter knife. I gave up and bought some other tea at a store.


I was just thinking that, in today's world, where everyone in every category of human life seems to be increasingly emotionally hurt and angered by references to their unique, special categories or groups mentioned in any sort of media, that the name on a box of "Munchkins" Donuts should probably be changed to "Vertically Challenged" donuts, even though height isn't usually an issue in doughnuts or in movies.

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