Smoking I

We were lying in the outfield grass, tired and happy after a long session of baseball. Patty Fulkerson was my age,9, while his older brother Dicky was 11 and my brother Jimmy was 10. Dicky and Jimmy were conspiring about something and Patty and I were about to discover what it was. They wanted to smoke.

We had no cigarettes, so that was a problem. A plan was hatched. The older boys had the stronger desire to smoke. They had possibly gained some experience prior to this occasion whereas Patty and I had not but the hatched plan nevertheless involved Patty and Jerry taking the chance and obtaining the smokes for the four of us. This often seemed to be the case when adventures were planned. If a fall was to be taken,the younger guys would be the ones to take it. Somebody produced a quarter and I proudly took hold of it and went off to score with Patty. Up above the ball field was the truck stop Bailey’s, a noisy, usually busy place that had diesel and gas pumps, a garage for maintenance and minor repairs, dormitories and a restaurant. The greasy spoon had a pinball machine and next to that a cigarette machine. The vending machine made our quest much easier since no adult would need to be involved. We were ever so clever and careful. As we came through the door I said to Patty in a voice clear enough to be heard, “What kind of cigarettes did my dad say he wanted?”

“Marlboros!” he replied on cue. In slid the quarter, the proper lever was pulled, and out popped our pack of Marlboros. Our fast walk soon turned into a hurried run and soon we were back to the outfield, worthy earners of the reward to follow. I don’t recall how the matches were obtained but soon we were puffing away and pretending to like it, far enough away from parents, neb noses and tattletales. Dicky and Jimmy scolded their younger brothers for not inhaling properly and soon coughing ensued. We weren’t yet men but we were on our way. In those days, of course, smoking was anything but a crime except for those , like us, who were deemed too young to freely enjoy all the good things in life. Mickey Mantle bragged about smoking Viceroys in an advertisement in a national magazine and other athletes did the same. I don’t recall any of my beloved losers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, appearing in smoking ads but that was probably because they didn’t have the fame that New York stars like Mantle and Duke Snider enjoyed. There were probably adults I knew who didn’t smoke but there weren’t many.

Well, we couldn’t smoke the whole pack right then, so now we had another problem. Much discussion followed that dealt mainly with the fact that none of us wished to be caught holding the goods. The Fulkersons’ father frequently spoke of wringing people’s necks and Jimmy and I knew that our parents were not averse to corporal punishment either. Finally, a solution was arrived at that suited the situation. We walked past the outfield to a more wooded area, selected a tree, and one of us, probably Patty, climbed it a bit and carefully tucked our Marlboros on a branch just as though it was a bird’s nest. That way it would be there for us next time we wanted it. Sure it would.

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