Kids Smoking and Other Bad Habits

Tales of Vashon

Everyone smoked in the 1950’s, or, so it seemed.  Our Grandma Ollie smoked chesterfields and when her feet hit the ground in the morning, she would sit on the edge of her bed in a coughing fit, and reach for her cigarettes.  Both Mom and Dad smoked; though Dad not as much and it seemed that everyone smoked different brands.  Kit Bradley’s mother smoked Herbert Tarryton’s and Aunt Pat and Aunt Verna smoked Raleigh’s for the coupons that came with every package, entitling them to a set of pots and pans when they had gathered enough coupons.  Mom’s brother Tom lived in the small town of Hillsboro, Oregon where the cigarettes were not taxed.  Before we left for Oregon, Mom would get orders for cigarettes from the neighbors down at Cove and save them half the cost of their bad habit.

“Mike, what are you doing in Mom’s purse,” Sister Molly asked, as Mike dug around in the bottom of Mom’s purse for tobacco that had fallen out of her cigarettes.  When Mike had enough tobacco, I would help him roll it into a cigarette we had a code-name for; “JUD.”  Or, sometimes called a “cig.”  If we used the word “JUD”, it was in the sense of something sacred as in; “Hey! Kit,” (we were at grade school) “There is nobody behind the gym.  Let’s go smoke a “JUD.”  Or, do you know how many “JUDS” Dale has; I think I know where he has them hid.  Then we could take them and hide the “JUDS” somewhere else where Dale couldn’t find them to use at school to trade for things like a slingshot or even a worn out BB gun if it still worked.  Most of our stuff was second hand or much worse, like my bicycle that had been through five owners.  Or, at least, “That’s what Cappy Berard said, and he didn’t know that peaches grew on trees, before he came to Vashon.”  Cappy’s bike had no fenders, so when it rained, I came home with a mud stripe up my back.  Or, I just don’t remember taking the fenders off.  It made the bike look cool.  I painted the frame, red including painting over the schwinn chrome plate on the front of the steering column.   Decoration for any reason was embarrassing.  We wanted to be tough; at least, that’s the way we looked at it.

What Sean relates is pretty much true..Everybody smoked. In those days cars came with ash trays dispersed even more abundantly than today’s coffee holders.  And in the fifties ash trays were not used as receptacles for loose change or ferry tickets.. While most of Sean’s family smoked, most of my family did not with the exception of my grandfather and my uncle Bill.  My grandfather smoked fancy Cuban cigars and hand rolled cigarettes and my uncle Bill preferred ‘Lucky Strikes’.  In the office buildings of downtown Seattle the receptacles for ashes were everywhere and people even smoked at lunch counters.

So it is not surprising that we kids occasionally snuck a few ‘fags’ or ‘cigs’ from family sources and experimentally shared them..

One time my grandfather half finished a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Cuban cigar. He left it unattended as he was called out to some duty as a port Townsend engineer..And.  Seizing opportunity I snagged the remains.  His other favorite was ‘juan de fuca’ and I still have an empty box dating from goodness knows when.

Well with such a treasure I had to share and so I shared with my grade school friend Gene Amundson..such a sharing should not be repeated  as both of us got green faced throw-ups as we tried our best to inhale in the back of a garage.. We did not enjoy dinner that evening.  it was only later that we figured out  that my grandfather never really inhaled the smoke, and  he always smoked outside in the late afternoon with the breeze blowing a bit away from grandma.. .

Sean’s mom’s chocolate was another holy place.  At least that’s the way we looked at it as kids, mainly, because it was hard to get to from the top of the counter, where I had to stand on my tiptoes to reach the jar with two kinds of cooking chocolate in it.  Sometimes the chocolate was wrapped, but more often, the thick and very hard chocolate was either bitter or sweet.  Sometimes the sweet was a lighter color that could fool you.  I can’t believe that Mom didn’t know that we had been nibbling on her chocolate, not the bitter stuff, but the one we left our teeth marks in.  All those years at Cove, stealing Mom’s chocolate and she never mentioned it.

Sean@vashonloop.com