Three For A Dime
I find it’s sometimes hard to remember when smoking wasn’t the disgusting, hideous, social disease that it has become in today’s society. Looking back and brushing off some long forgotten nostalgia memories I believe I had my first experience with smoking when I was about eight or nine. It was down in the secret hideout (which was really only a small clearing with a few rocks to sit on) we neighborhood boys had in the woods behind our house. Someone had scavenged some loose tobacco from my Dad’s pipe tobacco pouch, someone else scrounged a few papers and between all of us we managed to roll a stogie of a cigarette that would have done a hobo proud. Unfortunately just when I thought I was getting the hang of it, through the cloud of foul smoke and the green faces of my friends and I coughing and hacking at the demon weed, I saw my older sister. Her evil grin let me know I was in deep ka ka, for of course she couldn’t wait to get home and squeal to our parents.
After a kick in the butt from my old man and a screaming bout from my Mom, not to mention the wooziness from the narcotic you would think that I would have learned my lesson but no…
The next day on our way to our hangout, I think it was John, my brother, who found gold or at least easy money to feed our new found hobby. As we walked he scooped up a discarded pop bottle along the path and the search was on for this new glass currency to feed the beast of our new addiction once someone had pointed out:
“You know that at the Yellow store you can buy tailor made cigs three for a dime?” someone mentioned and with that the hunt for more bottles was on again.
A small pop bottle would fetch a whopping 2 cents and a large bottle a nickel so it didn’t take us long to find enough empties to make our purchase of three cigs each which we were getting for our Dads of course if the owner asked. However back then if a three year old walked in and held up a dime and oohed or goo gooed the word smokes they would sell them to her.
Anyway now packing cigarettes and penny matches we were off to a new hiding spot and this time we would post a sentry. We all thought we were so “cool” at least in our own minds. It is true children tend to imitate the people they admire and back then everyone we admired…the soldiers who fought in WW III, the movie stars, the super heroes in the comic books, our teachers, priests even our own beloved parents, aunts and uncles smoked so was it any wonder we wanted to as well.
Well the years went by and I smoked more. By the time I reached Junior High school level, smoking, was the thing that almost half the students did and though we couldn’t smoke on the school ground a lamppost just outside the school driveway was the smoker’s corner. On a bright spring day I walked through the school doors smiling at the pure joy of being young, with cigarette between my lips and lighter posed to strike it as soon as I hit the lamp-post I felt only joy to be alive. My smile quickly faded though when there in front of parked in our old Ford Falcon was dear old Mom and Dad…I knew I was in trouble. The lecture was long and strong but my Dad was more pissed I think about being called into the see the principal about my fighting then he was over me smoking (but that’s another story). Anyway I endured in silence slouching down in the back seat as far as possible so my friends couldn’t see me in my humiliation.
I was grounded for a night but funny even to mothers back then smoking seemed an acceptable right of growing up for the next night as I was getting ready to go out she stopped me at the door and asked how much I smoked. When I told her maybe a pack a week, she shook her head and slipped me a buck (enough for a small pack back then). She smiled as she stood in the doorway and said I don’t like you smoking but if you are going to smoke I’d rather you didn’t lie about it and I don’t want you bumming. So began my legitimate life career of lung and heart criminal activity that I finally beat after almost thirty years I finally managed to quit the two pack a day habit in favor of wanting to live. Now I don’t preach but do encourage others to find a way to quit.