Thursday, 2 April 2009

Art In The Pocket

Right. I need help. I know you all know that, but this time it's cigarette packets. I'm looking for anecdotes about brands past, so, not about smoking per se but things like how you watched your grandfather make a tank out of an empty Ardath packet, how mum only ever smoked one Craven 'A' every year, on her birthday. You see the idea. And, if you remember, or come across references of named cigarettes in fiction I'd be very pleased to know about them. I've got things like Player's in Bond books, Gauloises in Len Deighton, but it's obscurer stuff I need, and brands. Like John Cowper Powys mentioning Gold Flake in A Glastonbury Romance, casually produced at an impromptu picnic. (Can you believe that, like he put a can of Lyle's Golden Syrup in Wolf Solent.) And those anecdotes. Is it really true, as a commentator said recently, that some fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain chucked their Weights packets out of their aircraft at Luftwaffe they'd just shot down? Anyway, all contributions very gratefully received, you'll find my e-mail address in my profile. Of course you'll get a credit if the whole thing ever sees the light of day, so thankyou all in anticipation. Now, where did I put that packet of Churchman's No.1?

37 comments:

Vincent said...

I'll be thinking about this. Your photo is very Powysian. JCP had a thing about celandines.

Peter Ashley said...

Thanks Vincent. I hoped they were celandines, but thought it a bit early.

Ten Inch Wheeler said...

Player's Weights? I was that correspondent. I've read umpteen WW2 RAF biographies and the fag-chucking incident occurred several times - and the reason i remember it is because It was always the same brand. Unfortunately, I have an exceptional ability to forget everything about a book I've just read, except for the odd nugget to be coughed up later in the pub or interweb comments box. I think it might be in Geoffrey Wellum's 'First Light', and/or Jim Bailey's 'The Sky Suspended' - as well as others, but sorry, I can't be sure

Bucks Retronaut said...

Anyone know why they were called "Weights"?
I don`t suppose it could be anything to do with them being better suited for the chucking exercise,could it?
Would fags like Marlboro "Lites"say, just get blasted away in the prop wash?
Just thought I`d ask.

Peter Ashley said...

Thanks Ten Inch, I'll try and find the books.

Bucks: I think they were called Weights because tobacco was weighed in 'weights'. And you're right, Marlboro Lights wouldn't have even got past the plexiglass.

Martin said...

Lucky the pilots didn't chuck Camels - it doesn't bear thinking about.
The photo is very nostalgic, I smoked Gold Flake in the 70's, and even then some of the older blokes I worked with would say, "Blimey, haven't seen them for a while...."

Diplomat said...

Childhood smoking - I do remember (aged about 10 or 11) pointing out to a mate that pinching a couple of Embassy Reds from his mum's pack was a sure way to get caught as I knew she could count - pinch the whiole pack and she'll not have a clue. I also have a friend whose husband has concerns about the the amount of a fine Temrpanillo she tucks away in the week - my top tip to her was: buy a case and keep topping it up as you go he'll soon get fed up of counting.

Toby Savage said...

I had a mate at Art College in 1971 known as 'Plumby Voice Peter'. He smoked only Sullivan's Private Stock, and from a cigarette holder to boot.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou all. Now I've got to get packs of Embassy, Temrpanillo (?), and Sullivans. I found a great quote in Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, reminding me that it always seemed to be Players fags that you could win on the target shooting.

Vincent said...

Miles of pram in the wind and Pam in the gorse track
Coco-nut smell of the broom and a packet of Weights
Press'd in the sand. The thud of a hoof on a horse-track
...
(first lines of Pot Pourri from a Surrey Garden, John Betjeman)

Vincent said...

And if you run out of nostalgic topics, how about razor-blades?

"It was the forty-seventh day of the new razor-blade.
...
"It's a blue Gillette perforated. Wrapped in grease-proof paper and a little blue envelope with a picture of Mr Gillette where the address would be. Mr Gillette!—King C. Gillette is the name in copperplate under the photograph. You can't put Mr before, or Esq. after, that. He is like a film magnate or—or maybe a successful American novelist."
(from "Shaving through the Blitz", by G. W. Stonier.)

DC said...

The Raffles books are full of references to Sullivans.

Ten Inch Wheeler said...

Is it worth mentioning that the cockpit of the Vought Corsair came with an ashtray and cigarette packet holder as standard?

I think the RAF (officially) banned smoking in the cockpit, although BoB legend (16 victories) Peter Brothers always had a smoke when coming in to land after combat.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou for these, it's fabulous stuff. I've always loved the Betjeman Weights reference, and must stuff a pack into some sand somewhere. But thanks all the same, it's great.

Jon Dudley said...

Now come on everyone (to the tune of 'What shall we do with a drunken sailor' -

'A man at sea will often hanker,
For the flavour of an Anchor,
So much satisfaction!'

Sorry, you weren't looking for old TV ads...but this was a gem and lends itself to much alternative rhyming and interpretation as the two salts in the ad haul in their fishing nets.

Bucks Retronaut said...

The mother-in-law was named Pam.
That's why I can`t bring myself to smoke, and try to avoid gorse tracks at all costs.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Was that Anchor ad the one they were parodying in BEYOND THE FRINGE? ('Smoke Bollard: a man's cigarette.')

Jon Dudley said...

Yes Philip I do believe it was. I actually did that sketch at a school revue in '69 with Stephen Coote (he of various masterful historical and poetical biographies) and Rod Hall (the theatrical agent so cruelly murdered a few years ago)...naturally I was the one with no talent but delivered the line "Bollard, the cigarette for men" having spent the previous few minutes mincing about like some extra from South Pacific.

Peter Ashley said...

Ooh, like that Anchor ad. And I've got one of those too.

Diplomat said...

ooh - just remembered something. a few months ago I was sitting next to a woman at dinner and managed to persuade her to have her first cigarette since giving up 23 years ago - MORE WILL POWER !

Peter Ashley said...

Well done Diplo. forever vigilant.

Dave Lovely said...

Opposite my junior school, in fact roughly midway between the school and the newsagents - or as far as we were concerned, sweetshop, purveyor of pineapple chunks and sherbet fountains - there was (I say 'was' as I'm sure it will have been removed) a cigarette machine. A cigarette machine, moreover, exclusively purveying Craven A's, Woodbines, Senior Service etc - the higher-tar, more (how shall we put this) 'cancer-stick' end of the market brands. Well, it was the 1960s; the nanny state hadn't quite come of age.

ChrisP said...

Raffles the Amateur Cracksman smoked Sullivan & Powell's Turkish. Age 19, I took them up for a while because I thought they made me look cool, until a barmaid I fancied like mad sniffed the air and said "Oo's lit up old socks?" at which point I gave them up.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou Dave and Chris. I too fell foul of a girl I was trying to impress, simply by nonchalantly throwing down the completely over-the-top Players Perfectos packet onto a cafe table.

Bucks Retronaut said...

I suffered similarly ChrisP,but I was blown out because she thought my affectation of holding the fag between my 3rd and 4th fingers in the sophisticated style of say Rene Cutforth,or so I thought, was distinctly questionable,

DC said...

At Cambridge in the early '80s I used to smoke Benson & Hedges unfiltered Turkish Ovals, beautiful cigarettes in a landscape-format low hinged box with a tactile, more-than-duck-egg-blue finish...ahhhhh. Bought from Colin Lunn's tobacconist on King's Parade, closed now and probably a tartan teddy-bear shop like every other shop is now in that benighted City.

Peter Ashley said...

Great stories DC and Bucks, thankyou. I know what you mean about Cambridge, one of my favourite cities. How could Heffers even think of getting rid of the Children's Bookshop. But don't let that distract us from the fag in hand.

Dru Marland said...

Here's something from Margery Allingham's "The Beckoning Lady", with, appropriately enough, a little detective work required. Clue: published 1955

"...I wonder if I could trouble you for a cigarette, Mr. Campion?"
The thin man produced his case gravely and offered it to him. "Sailors," he said. "Or I have some Laymans."
South was grinning, but he was disappointed. "Thank you very much," he said helping himself. "I usually smoke Blue Zephyrs," he added shamelessly.
"Then you do yourself proud," murmured Mr. Campion, still very seriously.

Circe said...

My mother smoked Kent, Vantage, Marlboro Lights, Newports, Kool-- always soft pack. Is there significance to that? Do my comments count if I'm not a Brit? My parents lived in England for a time shortly after WWII; my mom claimed it's where she learned to love warm (room temperature) beer. I remember my mother when I was small, using the cellophane from whatever softpack she had with her to catch Chiclets (chicle gum) from the little square vending machines for me when at the hardware store, car repair place, military comissary... there was always the smell of the tobacco mingled with the sweet smell of the gum. And it felt so special to have my own clear tiny bag of multicolored gum to keep me happy while waiting. I can smell it now.

I never became addicted to cigarettes, but did smoke in college after my mother died. (Of lung cancer.If she were alive today, I'd ask her what if any more funky retro brands she may have dabbled in before I was cognizant.) I found myself sitting at the Greek and Cypriot table for a time, due initially to a geneological research project, rather than in the Rathskellar, and somehow felt I needed to defend my personal airspace the only possible way. (from Marlboros Red Box, Camels unfiltered and the occasional Lucky Strike) After mostly giving it up, for a year or so I kept a white box of Dunills, purchased at the specialty tobacconist, in the glove box of my cream and tan fiat spider convertible.(The box looked much like the South African white and blue Benson and Hedges box) They got stale quickly, and would need to be replaced before I finished the box, but they seemed the perfect imported accent to my four wheeled freedom.

Circe said...

That would be, Dunhills, rather. I hate the thought that I may need glasses! What a great proofer/editer I once was...

And, I know I'm behind... And no, Texas did not turn out to be at all like your image of Alabama (nor mine). Quite delightful; I recommend highly the places and persons I visited!

Circe said...

Oh compulsion-- why am I stuck here? I am really lagging, jet or no. "Of course not", to answer my own question of relavance; not being English, any and all mitigation is moot for me... my friends call me an anglophile, though I deny anything which sounds as though it smacks of sociopathic leanings... I'll just go drink my peppermint tea before bed, and pretend that Geraldine McEwan is tucking me in as Miss Marple. Lord knows I need the sleep. Am debating whether or not to scrap my ciggie commentary... Keep up the lovely job, no matter how any seepage of American culture may taint your blog! ;)

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou so much Circe. Sorry it's taken so long to see your invaluable comments.

Anonymous said...

Jon Dudley and Philip Wilkinson rightly surmised the connection between Bollard and the TV jingle for Anchor cigarettes. The parody in Beyond the Fringe (the script having been amended by the Lord Chamberlain, that being 1960) was no less preposterously intoned as a sea shanty:
"Stormy days at sea are followed/
By the smoking of a Bollard/
Once that lovely smoke is swallowed/
So much satisfaction!"
The punchline is delivered in basso profundo: "Smoke Bollard, the man's cigarette!"

TopQuark
http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/ pages/737/Lord-Chamberlain.html

Anonymous said...

... contd... My original purpose having been to mention that Anchor was my first regular illicit smoke as a schoolboy, being the cheapest pocket-money could run to after deciding Woodbine were utterly unpalatable. In 1958 in the nearest sweetshop to school, Anchor cost 1s 3d for 10 (12.5p in new money), but the considerate shopkeeper sold them singly to us teen novices at tuppence a go, equivalent to two sticks of licorice.

It wasn't until university that I discovered the rainbow delights of Sobranie gold-tipped cocktail cigarettes "in colour" as the wide black pack proclaimed. [Not for daytime consumption, I hasten to add.]

TopQuark

Sam Roberts said...

Some interesting stuff about Black Cat fags here.

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