Better Days
A Series on Pipes Smoking's Nostalgic Past

By Ernie Whitenack

"Grandpa Baloney"

"Leave that stinky old pipe on the porch."

These words rising loudly from my mother heralded the arrival of my grandfather Edwards, my namesake and whom I called Grandpa Baloney. Why such a name?
After sitting on his lap relating the events of my young life since having last seen Grandpa, he would always look at me for several moments and say, "Aw! You're full of baloney".

He would let me sit in the Model-T truck he had just driven in from his small farm on the fringe of Springfield Ill. I can still smell the pungent odor of burnt wooden matches and tobacco that saturated the truck's sparse upholstery. Naturally his work clothes carried the same odor which caused my mother to start boiling aromatic spices on the black cook stove.

Whenever he came for a visit and, that was often during the Great Depression, I was certain of two things:

First off, my mother met him at the door and barked that never changing order regarding his pipe. Secondly, the old chipped porcelain-topped table in the kitchen was piled high with fresh vegetables during the season and root products all winter. He was a great old guy who occasionally brought me a toy, usually purchased with Between the Acts Coupons, and a master of funny faces..

My father maintained the harsh smell came from grandpa's home-grown tobacco mixed with store-bought chewing tobacco, Beechnut I think, or the stubs of Between the Acts Little Cigars. I never minded the smell. Upon reflection, it was an identity marker of one very close to my heart and whose visits were often the high point of my week.

Dad smoked a pipe and hand rolled his own cigarettes. Usually his source was a five cent bag (only seen in western movies today) of Bull Durham, a long-gone square cut mixed flake. However it was nothing as fowl as grandpa smoked and was mildly tolerated in the house. Dad lost his job when the Illinois Watch Company closed but once in a while, when he would get work, Dad would have a pack of Lucky Strike, Twenty Grand or a tin of Half and Half (the tin was narrow in depth and made in two sections to be collapsed when the tobacco got lower in the can).

A note on Twenty Grand Cigarettes:
Aside from the regular pack selling for ten cents, one could purchase a single extra long cigarette, about seven or eight inches. I don't know the cost but the idea was that one could cut off any desirable length. Twenty Grand faded out and disappeared, along with all major brands, with the emergence and escalation of WWII. Major brands were replaced by the Class B likes of Wings, Fatima Rameses or Picayune. Major brand cigarettes by the millions were shipped free to GIs around the world and included in all C Ration boxes.

Copyright © Ernest Whitenack, 2009

Other Better Days Articles
Grandpa Baloney
Granpa Newt
The Glamour and Lure of Smoking
Smoking the War Away
Germany, Cigs and Ration Cards
The Final Chapter - Part 1


Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield, Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is now retired.

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