Is it possible that I can get through this posting, relating my OWN experiences, without making some one angry? I’ll say right up front that it is not my intention to raise anyone‘s temperature.
I’ve done over 35 of these blog postings, and as far as I can recall, EACH ONE has been about my own experiences. None was designed to cause rancor, resentment or to otherwise be divisive.
But, truth be known, it can’t be helped, if one insists on talking, and/or writing about, such a controversial subject.
“So”, you say, “WHY insist on writing about a controversial subject, Mike?”
Because, well, it’s a subject that has AFFECTED me seriously. I was a full-blown addict! I got so I smoked 2 or more packs a day - even after I had quit once. (Let me mention that we’re talking about 55 years ago, actually.)
My first memory of smoking was when “Googie” Culp and I went behind the barn on their lot, and lay some corn silk into a cigarette paper, lit it up, and smoked it. I say, “smoked it”. I doubt if I was REALLY smoking then, because I’m sure I wasn’t inhaling. But, it LOOKED like I was smoking. Even though “Googie” was the only one that saw me. I was, BIG, don’t you know! So I GUESS that was the big reason. What else was there? Was there enjoyment in puffing in corn silk, then blowing it out? I doubt it. Nobody but Googie saw me. But, I was an adult. (Foolish thought.)
Oh…………I didn’t mention my age. I think, 14 or 15 years old.
So, a “filling station” up the street from us (Do you know what that is? Probably not if you’re younger than 60.) sold pipe tobacco, as well as cigarettes. I don’t know where I got the pipe (probably right there), but I “secretly” bought some pipe tobacco, put it in my pipe, and “smoked” it. (Oh….a “filling station” “filled-up” cars with gasoline.)
Now, the question is, “Where did I hide the pipe, tobacco and corn silk?” In the barn, of course. If you’re going to “sneak around”, why not hide it in a barn?
If I was going to hide my pipe, tobacco and cornsilk in the barn, why not the actual cigarettes? Remember, I hadn’t actually smoked a cigarette yet.
“So, what brand did you buy, Mike”
“What do you think? The most popular brand of that day, LUCKY STRIKE, of course.” I tried CAMEL one time, but the taste was different (after I started inhaling). It was OK, but different. PHILIP MORRIS was different also, but in a different way. And, KOOLs had a kind of menthol taste.
I don’t exactly remember the first time I inhaled a cigarette, but my mind kinda makes me think of choking on a sore throat, when you cough. The first time, I really wondered if the whole thing was worth it. But, I was an “adult” now, you know.
I do think I didn’t do it many times the first day. The next time, it was a LITTLE easier, but still made me cough. Looking back now, I think, “Wasn’t that some kind of warning, Mike? Didn’t it hurt? Why put yourself through that?”
It was because I was NOW an ADULT. Ground taken, should not be relinquished!
Each day, the inhaling seemed easier, and eventually a kind of “euphoria” swept over me. “Look at me. I’m an adult. I smoke.”
Subterfuge - and that’s what it was, in keeping all of this from my mother - became almost a way of life. I felt kinda smug. I was “putting something over on her”, I thought.
“Thought” is the operative word here.
For some reason, the obvious fact that she could “smell” it on me, never occurred to me. It should have, because I could remember a few short years before that, when sitting in our “cubby hole” of a “picture show” named, “Rainbow Theater”, I could sit anyplace in that theater, and if a smoker came in, I could smell him “a mile away”, as we say. I tried to sit where they weren’t, so I couldn’t smell it. I couldn’t get away from it. (They weren’t smoking, but they HAD been.) I say, since that was so, don’t you think I would have remembered that when coming near my mother?
Not a chance.
I can’t remember very well the first time she asked me if I had been smoking. I don’t know if I lied or not. The subterfuge that I was passing along surely would have justified it, in my mind. But, she DID find out, and let me know she didn’t like it. I hope I didn’t lie and say, “I’m sorry, Mother. I’ll not do it again.” I can’t guarantee I said that, but on the other hand, I wish I had, and then kept my word!
And, if smelling it on my breath wasn’t enough, my clothes were certainly “full of it.”
At any rate, I just moved on - smoking and smoking. I think Mother finally got over it - or at least accepted it. I didn’t smoke in front of either her or my dad, nor would I bring the cigarettes in the house.
I MUST mention what cigarettes cost in those days. At Smitty’s, they were 15 cents a pack, and $1.35 for a carton of 10. I bought the carton.
Next, came the Army. The old adage that ANY former soldier could tell you is: “At ease. Smoke, if ya got ‘em.” Well, I “had ‘em” and I “smoked” ‘em.
One of the things seared in my memory of my smoking days, is the “brownish black” mark on the edge of any table where we had stood. You know, you’d “take a drag”, then lay it down - on the edge of the table. No probem, except invariably, you let it smoke down to the table before you realized it. So, you made a cigarette mark. If a guy worked at a bench (radio repairmen do) for very long, you could tell if he was a smoker, without seeing him smoke, or smelling it on his breath, by just looking at the edge of his table. Or, an ash tray, if he was careful.
After the Army, I went in the R.W. Schetter Jewelry store, and opened up the first full time radio repair shop in town. Bob had done some of it, but fixing watches was his bag.
I don’ t remember how long it was - nor how it happened - that my cigarette intake increased. Like any habit, I guess, you seem to crave even more.
In the winter of 1950, Mechanicsburg had the biggest snow storm in the memory of any one still living. The streets were covered solid with 12 to 18 inches of snow. (No snow plows back then.) I lived maybe 4 blocks away, but I couldn’t get my car away from the curb in front of the store.
There was a young lady clerk in the store, named Louise Pitzer. She lived 2 or 3 miles out of town, on a state highway. I may be mistaken, but I think she had a 1938 Ford V-8. Maybe not. Bob let her leave early.
Anyway, Bob and I tried to push her car back into the street, with the idea of her driving up the Main Street hill, and then home. Little did we know, but we tried anyway. She stayed at the Schetters’ that night.
The thing is, after pushing Louise’s car for so long, I was desperately “out of breath”, and “wheezing”. I thought (as I’ll bet nearly EVERY smoker has said at one time), “I’ve got to quit this smoking”.
So I did. I didn’t smoke any longer. I felt better. I could breathe better - for some months, I don’t know how long. But, I walked home.
But the urge was still there, and after a time, I started smoking. If you think I smoked a lot before, you should should have seen me after I started up again. Very shortly, I exceeded 2 packs a day (that’s more than 40 cigarettes), regularly!
In an earlier posting on this blog, I related how Jean and I “came to Christ” - became Christians. We “got saved”, as we like to say in our circles.
About a month later, we had a city wide Evangelistic Crusade in Springfield, 18 miles from Mechanicsburg. Since my sister and brother-in-law had “led us to Christ”, they got us involved in the meetings, at Memorial Hall in Springfield (Building now condemned).
Right now, my mind is foggy about even the name of the Preacher, or the subject of the message, but I DO remember that I surrendered my life to Christ, for whatever He wanted me to do.
At the time, Christians in the northern part of the USA, looked down on smoking, as a sin against the body. In the south, however, it was an OK thing. Even many of those coming north, but attending churches originating in the south, smoked.
However, when I got home in Mechanicsburg that night, after surrendering my life AND body to Christ, I told Jean, “You know, I think I’m done with cigarettes. They’ve never done anything but harm my body.”
I went into the bedroom, opened up the top drawer of the chest of drawers, and slid the pack of Lucky Strikes down into the right front corner of that drawer, and now, after 57 years, I can say I have NEVER tasted ANY form of smoke or tobacco. I’ve never even had an urge to do so. Don’t ask me how it happened, since so many CAN’T quit. But it did. For years, I dreamed I had started smoking again, and I sometimes woke up in a sweat. But, NEVER SMOKED!
As a final thought after all these years, I have become convinced that, if I hadn't quit, I would have been dead 35 years ago, at the age of 50, instead of reaching, by the Grace of God, the age of 85 in 3 months, God Willing.
“….know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, …and that you are not your own, …you are bought with a price?” I Cor. 6:19