Friday, May 3, 2013

Sepia Saturday: When Smoking Was Cool

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.





This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows a happy lady, cigarette in hand.  No doubt she was one of the cool kids. 

I grew up when smoking anywhere and everywhere was widely accepted.  However, smoking was for adults.  When I was in school, most teens who smoked tried to hide it from their parents.  But the more rebellious ones didn’t care.  In fact, they were allowed to smoke out by the smoke stack behind the school.  No doubt a school administrator with a sense of humor set that policy.

Cradock High School, Portsmouth, Virginia 1966
Cradock High School Portsmouth, Virginia
The smokestack is on the left, towering above the school.


Harry Escue and son, Shenandoah, Virginia
Harry Escue on the right.
I believe that is his son Emile, but I'm not sure.



Historically, smoking was the man’s domain.  That might explain why my distant cousin’s husband Harry Escue proudly posed for a formal portrait with his favorite cigar in hand.



















My grandfather Fred Slade, Sr. seemed always to have a cigarette too:


Fred Slade, Sr. 1919 Princess Anne County, Virginia
Fred Slade as a young man farming
and smoking on the job 1919
Fred Slade, Sr. 1952 Burlington, NC
Cigarette in the ashtray  
Fred Slade and granddaughter Wendy Slade
I guess Granddaddy wasn't
worried about ashes falling
on that sweet baby's head.
Fred Slade in orange grove
Granddaddy Slade smoking in an orange grove


The same can be said of Granddaddy Davis and my own father, but alas, no proof in photos.

By the 1920s, the first wave of women’s liberation brought women smokers out of the closet.  But in the colleges, women were to be ladies.  At Harrisonburg Teachers College (now James Madison University - Go Dukes!), smoking was expressly forbidden.  In fact, the no-smoking rule extended even to traveling for the holidays between home and school although I do not know how that rule was enforced or what the punishment might have been. 

Leta LeVow 1925 Harrisonburg, VA
Leta LeVow 1925
Harrisonburg Teachers College



Yet here is my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring’s college roommate sitting IN her underwear, ON the dresser IN their dorm room, with a cigarette.  That blurred hand must have just put out the match.   

Scandalous!



















My mother was also one of the cool college-age smokers.

Mary Eleanor Davis, Christine Westbrook, Betsy Ward
Mary Eleanor Davis, Christine Westbrook, Betsy Ward
Mary and Betsy have cigarettes.  

In fact, she smoked Pall Mall until a few years before her death in 2005.  When and why she quit is a mystery.  She never announced her intentions to quit.  She never complained about withdrawal or expressed a desire for a cigarette. She just quit.  Out of the blue.  I wasn’t even aware she was quitting.  One day I noticed she wasn’t smoking.  I didn’t hear the familiar inhale-exhale when we spoke on the telephone.  She had quit for good.  Daddy was banished to the garage whenever he needed to smoke. 

He was also known to smoke in the car, the very one Daughter #1 at about age 5 dubbed “a smoker’s car.”  She even informed her younger sister, “We’re going for a ride in a smoker’s car.” 

Slade family Towncar
"the smoker's car"


As for me, I’ve never smoked and have never been tempted to sneak a drag.  I remember watching television the night reporters were all abuzz over the latest research connecting smoking and cancer. I took those reports seriously.

But that didn’t stop us from enjoying candy cigarettes and pretending to smoke.

Mary Jollette Slade
My sister -- too cool for school in those Go-Go boots!
While we loved candy cigarettes, she is holding
a REAL cigarette.  


If you’re ready for a cigarette break or just a break in general, please visit my friends at Sepia Saturday.




© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

54 comments:

  1. It's so strange how customs change. I was brought up with smoking being cool and we all did it. I had a couple of unsuccessful attempts at breaking the habit but have now succeeded totally. It's hard addiction to break.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear it's a hard habit to break but the benefits of doing so are tremendous, beginning with extending one's life about 10 years.

      Delete
  2. I remember those candy cigarettes (or sweets as we call them here!) Imagine the horror now if someone tried to sell them! I read somewhere that nicotine is more addictive than heroine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tried to find out if candy cigarettes are still around. I thought they weren't but they're plentiful online. And I found conflicting information about whether they're "illegal."

      Delete
  3. I took up smoking because it was cool. I am now trying to quit. I love your old pictures of the smokers. My parents didn't smoke of drink so those who did were more glamorous. What a bill of goods we were sold. And, I never dropped ashes on my kids heads. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, good luck trying to quit. And I'm glad your kids were spared.

      Delete
  4. Just like your mother, my mother smoked for years and then one day she didn't. I was about 12ish and I don't remember ever hearing a word about quitting or congratulations when she did. She just stopped.

    Somewhere around that time, my dad wanted to be sure that my sister and I never smoked out of curiosity so he sat us down at the kitchen table and forced each of us to smoke a cigarette. That did it for me and I never had any desire to smoke - my sister experimented for awhile but, fortunately, it never stuck for her.

    My dad smoked cigars on occasion and I remember him smoking in the car. To this day when I smell a cigar I think of my dad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my! I've heard of people making their kids smoke one cigarette but never really knew anyone. Man, talk about tough love!

      Delete
  5. I too remember the candy cigarettes. When you mentioned the car I recalled that most houses in our neighborhood reeked of smoke..it was the rule, not the exception. I myself quit one New Years after I heard an American Cancer Society call-in where the callers suffering from laryngeal cancer were all using those voice boxes! Stubbed my cigarette out in the car ashtray and never smoked again. Your mother and her friends on the beach were certainly a trio of beauties!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Today when I go into a house where people smoke, I'm VERY aware of it. However, I don't remember our house smelling bad or the houses of any of my friends and neighbors. Maybe they did but we had always lived in it and didn't notice.

      Delete
  6. You have some interesting photos on the theme. I especially like the one in the college dorm room.

    ReplyDelete
  7. That picture of your sister is the best! I partook of those candy cigarettes too - but never the real thing. Thank goodness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She was dolled up, wasn't she?

      Delete
  8. I really like the photo of Leta. I'd love to know her story.
    Nancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Leta LeVow" - now that's a name fit for a movie star. But she wasn't.

      Delete
  9. Your photos are wonderful. I love your sister's Go-Go boots! Made me think of the fashions and smoking on Mad Men. The college smoking (or no smoking) rules are fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I kept thinking about MadMen as I was writing this blog post. Remember in Season 1 the doctor was lighting up as he was getting ready to examine Peggy who was seeking birth control. That show really captures the cavalier attitude about smoking.

      Delete
  10. A very impressive pack of smokers. Its funny how many people in the old photos seem completely unconscious of the cigarette in their hand. Except for the cool ones of course. My grandfather was the chronic smoker. Camels brand which I can still smell in a bad dream.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My dad was a Camels smoker too. Strong stuff.

      Delete
  11. You're lucky you never started - I can vouch for the difficulty of giving up. After smoking for 19 years, I finally managed to quite in 1999, but it was very, very hard. There were similar smokers' possies at my school, but that certainly wasn't permitted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My husband smoked for just a short time in college, but he quit when he took up tennis. But he found it difficult to quit too despite not smoking very long.

      Delete
  12. Wendy, Yes, smoking was the social thing to do. The photo of the three beauties in their bathing costume is beautiful. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Yes, those girls were beautiful and popular too.

      Delete
  13. Smoking was not done in my family but I do remember those candy cigarettes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They tasted pretty good -- sugar sugar and more sugar.

      Delete
  14. Your comment about smoking in cars reminded me of looking for secondhand cars and checking behind the sun visor to see whether the previous owner had been a smoker,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When my sister and I sold "the smoker's car" after our dad died, we cleaned up everything but the ashtray -- just totally forgot. We noticed it when we had a buyer but he didn't care because he was a smoker too.

      Delete
  15. When I was at school and learning to smoke (!) (say 64-69) you could buy packs of 5 cigarettes, but I never saw these for many years now. In the UK now cigarettes are so expensive that when I go to pick up litter in the street I rarely find a 20s packet, they are mostly 10s, but I'm not sure you have 10s in the USA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow - 64-69 - that's rather old to be in school, isn't it? Har Har - yeah, I'm here through the weekend.

      Delete
  16. Oh yes I had forgotten about those candy cigarettes, do they still have them? I don't think I've seen any. Yes my photos and yours show that folks were not concerned about smoking around babies or anyone. You have quite an array of smokers photos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have found candy cigarettes online but have not seen any in a store around here in a long time. Maybe store owners view candy cigarettes as a gateway drug.

      Delete
  17. Oh my favorite photo, besides your sister in the last one is the teacher Leta, too funny, but oh I can imagine it was just the coolest moment for her! I still love those candy cigarettes I think they are just yummy, and they are the coolest with the red paint on the end for the fire you know! My daughter in law just bought a bunch of them to put in the little bags for her son's 5 year old birthday party and I hope not too many parents were upset by it, these days some parents don't like their children even pretending to smoke! Even though, these youngsters just know them as just yummy candy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The picture of Leta makes me see her and my aunt as enthusiastic flappers, and darn proud of it.

      Delete
  18. Love the dorm room furniture! Love that photo too!
    I do remember candy cigarettes and blowing through them so a puff of "smoke" came out. I loved them since my dad smoked but I never, ever smoked...also knew how bad it was...and hated the smell of the smoke.

    In high school I worked in a sporting goods store and when I cashiered people would smoke right at the register...I would hold my breath. And in 1984 I worked in a craft store in a big mall and people could smoke in the mall but not in the stores...I was sooo happy when smoking was finally banned in stores and restaurants in CA!

    Great post :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Having grown up around smoke, it never used to bother me, but it surely does now. I too am glad stores and restaurants have banned smoking.

      Delete
  19. I used to love those candy cigarettes! It really boggles the mind why they ever made those things. Crazy...

    Hope you're having a nice weekend. ☺

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same as making toy guns, I suppose. Of course, I probably enjoyed a steady diet of candy cigarettes, but I never had the desire to smoke a real one.

      Delete
  20. What a great trip through the history of smoking. both my parents and everyone they knew smoked. I never tried it either.
    Thanks for dropping by and visiting.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Your sister is definitely too cool in that photo.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Wendy, I loved this post! My grandpa's smoked too, and my Mom quit just like your Mom did. One day at a time, no fuss, after 21 years. Velma's roommate is a kick.

    Kathy M.

    ReplyDelete
  23. A wonderful collection of photos.

    When I started working at a bank, the male tellers would smoke while serving clients (females weren't allowed). Hard to believe now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, now that's a real double-standard. I remember when smokers got a 15-minute smoke break but non-smokers got nothing.

      Delete
  24. You sure found plenty of examples. You must have a great collection of old photos. I love the one of great aunt Velma in her college room in her undies. She looks like a fun loving person.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My mother always considered her Aunt Velma "the fun one" of the family.

      Delete
  25. Lucky Strikes went to war and my father joined up. He was a smoker for around 18 years until one day he coughed up blood and said, "That's it." He threw a new carton in the trash and never looked back.

    My mother once asked after they were newly wed if she could try it. My dad said sure. He handed her a cigarette, she breathed in, he hit in the back so that she swallowed the smoke. He did it on purpose because he didn't want her smoking. It worked. She never smoked again.

    I was like you. Just the candy ones, please. I found some a few years ago at a candy store and sent them to a friend. They made her laugh and go back to her childhood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my - two good anti-smoking stories!!

      Delete
  26. I'm impressed that you have so many photographs of family members with cigarettes. The tobacco of choice among my ancestors seemed to be pipes - but I have very few photographs of the men with pipes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And here I had been wondering why there are no pictures of this person or that person smoking. There were more smokers in my family than pictures of them in the act.

      Delete
  27. alright, so I needed to lit one up before commenting.
    Great post, for starters!!
    If the ash of granddaddy's cigarette had fallen on the baby's head
    and caused any damage, the mentality back then would have been to brush it off and say "it'll grow back"... No trip to the ER!!
    My grandfather had a spittoon.
    That was his thing, chewing tobacco and spitting.
    Disgusting!!!
    :D~
    HUGZ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true -- a dropped ash never hurt anybody ~ hmm. I think the spitting thing is the worst.

      Delete