venture to guess that almost every family history contains one or
more members who seemed to always be smoking a cigarette, cigar or
pipe. For some reason, smoking a cigar or pipe seemed different from
smoking a cigarette.
My grandfather Charley Trew was a devout Christian yet smoked a Roi
Tan cigar once a week during his favorite Sunday-morning church radio
broadcast. I can still smell the cigar odor and see grandma fanning
to clear the air as she sat nearby piecing quilt tops.
Remember the little square table in many houses with an ash tray and
pipe holder on top? When you opened the small door the smell of blended
tobacco contained in a press-top can was presented. In addition to
the tobacco humidor other smoking aids might be present.
My father was a chain smoker and every so often he quit cigarettes
and tried to smoke a pipe hoping to taper off completely. It never
worked as he always went back to cigarettes. I loved to smell his
pipe and I believe he smoked Prince Albert tobacco if my memory serves
I can see him now, pull out his pipe, knock the ashes loose, fill
the bowl and press the tobacco down with his thumb. When all was ready,
he swiped a kitchen match across his trousers and lit his pipe. The
entire episode seemed to give him great satisfaction.
Pipes required some maintenance. The ashes caked inside the bowl and
some smokers used pipe reamers for cleaning. Some reamers reached
great sophistication along with cigar cutters and pipe bowls. The
small passages of a pipe could be cleaned with pipe cleaners consisting
of small wires twisted around lengths of fuzzy felt material. Later
model pipes sported filters.
Incidentally, those same pipe cleaners could be sneaked out and used
to make little animal silhouettes, clean cap pistols or tickle the
student's neck sitting in front of you at school or church. Stealing
pipe cleaners, playing with matches and smoking might get the seat
of your britches warmed if you were caught.
In retrospect, the type of smoking also revealed the smoker's personality.
In my family, cigarette smokers were impatient, worried and often
changed their minds. The cigar smokers seemed to have more responsibilities,
and appeared more prosperous than others. The pipe smokers were a
patient, laid-back lot who were easy to get along with and fun to
A good-smelling pipe seemed to add dignity to the user whether deserved
or not. Pipe lighting methods varied with each smoker. The old cowboys
lighting their cigarettes or pipes while mounted on horseback and
in a breeze always had my admiration.
Best of all, I remember playing with the small red tobacco cans. We
hid treasure, secret messages and orders from the high command inside
the cans and protected them with our lives against theft or demand.
Boy did we have fun back then, how about you?
"It's All Trew" August
29, 2006 Column