Friday, April 19, 2013


In the mid-thirties the makers of Old Gold cigarettes ran a contest.  There were a series of pictures with three or four names below each one.  There were clues, of course, in the pictures and you had to pick out the most appropriate name to go with each picture.

My parents who had long smoked cork-tipped Spuds now switched to Old Golds. (I think wrappers had to accompany each entry.)  Their friends would come on weekends and there would be long discussions about which name to choose and send in.  It was fun for them and they finished the contest but did not win big money.

A year or so later, they switched to Lucky Strikes.  This package logo changed with the advent of World War II and the slogan "Lucky Strike green has gone to war."

I was at the age (15) when smoking seemed very glamorous and I would practice in the bathroom of our tiny Washington house, running the water and waving the powder puff full of talcum around to confound my mother.

I was smoking Camels, a very important grown-up brand.  Smoking was okay in the drug store after school until someone would call out here-comes-your-mother and all of us would quickly stamp out our forbidden cigarettes on the floor and earnestly apply ourselves to cokes or sundaes.

Everyone smoked in the movies.  Paul Henried lighting two and giving one to Bette Davis made it positively romantic.

Camels stayed my brand of choice for years.  Then somehow I switched to Chesterfields and toward the end of my smoking career Winstons.

My kids kept pointing out the ads on TV connecting tobacco and lung cancer.  Then my daughter developed asthma and was allergic particularly to cigarette smoke.  So I made the big decision and quit, using Lent as the jumping off place.  Each neighbor who visited for coffee seemed to me to be chain smoking but I persevered and never went back.

The glamour is gone as well as the smell, smokers' hack and messy ash trays.

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