July 2011

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 at 7:00 PM or meet early at C.B. Perkins at 5 PM Cobb's Corner, Canton.
Dinner at 6 PM - Location TBD

Club Info & Events

Details of the June Meeting
It's always a nice change of pace to meet at the Sportsman's Club and this month was no exception. But as usual, our meeting unofficially started at CB Perkins where we mingle with our cigar smoking brethren. We had a full house in June and the main topic of conversation was about the rare and tragic tornado that ripped through Western Mass. We were happy to hear that Dock and what's left of his pipe collection were not effected by the tornado. Another rare occurrence was that Prebakah, our host and store manager was actively engaged in blending pipe tobacco and tried his hand at reproducing Dunhill's Early Morning Pipe. I couldn't say how good of a match it was but I did enjoy the bowl I smoked.

We were also happy to connect with another new member. Zach is a roofer in the Wareham area and new pipe smoking but you wouldn't know it by talking to him. You can get quite an education these days right out of the gate by participating in the online pipe smoking forums that are out there. Zach is a regular visitor of the Puff and Brother's of Briar Forums. He already has a nice collection of quality pipes started and seems to be headed in the right direction. Welcome Zach.

At our regular meeting we discussed the 2011 SHCP Club pipe and decided to go with Mastro Beraldi for this year's pipe. We put together some specs to give them an idea of what we wanted and Mike relayed it back to them. We hope to have some sample drawings to look at this month.
Another activity many of us took part in (that we would never be able to do at our usual meeting location) was to shoot a few rounds in the shooting range with Eric's 22 pistol complete with scope and laser light beam for better target selection. From what I could see of the results, I wouldn't want to be any of the participant's targets. Thanks for the opportunity Eric.

The Nimrod Lighter - by Ernie Whitenack
I remember the Nimrod Lighter well. At the time it was a technological breakthrough for the smoking community. It seemed every pipe smoker had one. Unfortunately, contrary to this 1947 advertisement, it didn't work very well. I picked up two, one for Dad, at Blackie's Smoke Shop and neither of us could get a good light from it. Additionally, the aluminum housing got too hot to handle.

SHPC Guest Writer
We are very happy to introduce Mike Cangemi. Mike contacted us after reading one of Ernie's pieces about his Grandfather's visits to Ehrlich's Tobacco Shop in Boston. This inspired him to contribute his own recollection of his time working at Ehlich's in the 60's as a boy. This is Part 1 of a 2 part series. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

A little about Mike:
Mike lived in Dorchester during his Ehrlich years, 1963-68. He moved up north to Gloucester, MA in 1975 where he ran a small woodwork/gift shop both in Rockport and Gloucester. On occasion he enjoys day trips back to the city with his wife Pat, a Rozzy girl, where everything has changed and much from the past has disappeared. An artist whose fields involve writing, music and daydreaming he always enjoys new company and pastime stories. His latest interest is reading about America's War For Independence.

Pipes & Tobacco News & Info

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Websites Worth a Look
Not pipe related but Pipe Club related. Our very own Neil Morris, fragrance blender, pipe smoker and budding tobacco blender is being recognized for his work. Check out his interview here. Don't forget to check out the comments section and feel free to leave one, especially if you have a favorite Neil Morris scent!

This Month's Tobacco Raffle
This month we have 3 blends from a name I am not familiar with, Daughters'& Ryan. The blend descriptions are not very telling but I figured we'd give it a shot and see what we think.

With a name like this I had to give it a try. The descriptions says: A full bodied, traditional American blend with a robust taste.

Rimboche A.B. (40 gm)
A tangy blend of the finest flue-cured Gold Leaf tobaccos, a unique dark-fired tobacco that has been processed by the Perique method, and a touch of Latakia for spice and passion

Vengeur PLATINUM (40 gm)
This premium US Blend is medium bodied and contains the finest quality flue-cured Gold Leaf, air-cured Burley

The David P Ehrlich Pipe and Tobacco Shop, 1963

On November 22, 1963 news of President Kennedy’s death flew wildly across the airways of the three major television networks. Bold print newspaper headlines shared but one topic. Fast along the full length band of AM radio voices cracked the unimaginable, unconscionable breaking bulletins with hopes of erred news and misinformed medical reports. Today, similar events sound all too familiar, all too fluid in daily occurrences. November 22, 1963 was my fourteenth birthday. I’d obtained my required working card at the antiquated School Department building located on Boston’s Beacon Hill and was anxious to begin my first day of work as a stock boy at a downtown pipe and tobacco shop called David P. Ehrlich’s. The address was 207 Washington Street just across from the Old Statehouse.

Exiting the underground MBTA train station at the corners of Washington and Summer Streets I made my way past Filene’s department store, Raymond’s and the Jewelers Building, arriving in minutes at the corner of Washington and School Streets where the Boston Globe newspaper had recently open doors to the inner city trade. A small crowd had gathered in front of each of the building’s two front windows. I managed to wiggle myself close enough to read a hand-lettered message taped to the first window: it read the president had been shot. I remember reading another message but as memory fails me I don’t know which of these windows the paper was taped to. The message read the president was dead.

I was fourteen and knew no better. I thought ‘the president’ must have meant the head of the Globe newspaper or another large company. My sympathy was more in line with my not arriving late on my first day of work and so I continued on my way toward Ehrlich’s.

It would be easy for me to say "you had to be there" rather than try to describe the stirring brew of a boy’s imagination, Ehrlichs shop and the events of 1963 but my excuse would appear too detached to you, myself and the memory of such a storied era. Often, one of a kind events acquire importance only after time has ripened ones appreciation of its uniqueness, all of which is why I’m happy to pass on a small part of the story.

I’m sure of this. Ehrlich’s ran by its own clock, ripe for the times, a safe haven made for your senses, obvious to me even at fourteen. When walking through that famous glass front door with its large smoking pipe handle there’d be no denying the smell of raw cut tobacco or the aromatic comfort of reassuring you that this is how a smoke shop should greet a visitor. Ehrlich’s wasn’t the local corner cigarette store. It would be impossible to ignore the beauty of the mahogany cabinetry framing your presence. Ehrlich’s welcomed you inside in comfort, the way a return to the old baseball sandlot might trigger your mind into believing you still could hit the fastball after decades away from the game. You were home.

The store had an orderly physical setup you don’t often see today in business establishments. Once inside your attention was drawn to the enormous glass case housing the museum quality meerschaum collection. I don’t know what has happened to the dozens of pieces but I can tell you I’m not being overly liberal with description when I say it was truly a one of a kind collection. There was as many, if not more, carved meerschaum artifacts as there were pipes inside the case, each elaborately detailed to perfection. Along that same left side ran the counters which housed cigars, pouches and tins of tobacco, cigarettes and other accessories. Similar items, mostly cigars were stored within the wall cabinetry whose humidity was carefully checked and controlled on a weekly timeframe. Several counters ran along the middle of the floor, mostly displaying the less expensive pipes and pipe-carving kits that beckoned your attention, challenging you to try your own hand at shaping a block of briar into your very own pipe. The kits were always a popular item, even more so at Christmas. The counter along the right displayed the more expensive pipes, dozens in all the shapes imaginable. A collection of amber jewelry was displayed in a counter at the rear of the store. Above that was the office balcony which overlooked the entire goings-on of the business below. I’ll say a bit about the shipping room and basement storage vaults in my next article but for now I’ll tell you about the front windows display.

The window on the left was creatively decorated with samples of most everything for sale inside the shop. My boss and manager, Dave Fiorello, presented a simple formula for sales success: He never made the customer work to buy an Ehrlich’s product. Every item in the window had its price clearly marked in numbers you didn’t need a magnifying glass to read. Nothing was left to ponder. You knew the cost of an item and all that remained was for you to step inside, watch the salesman slip your cash into a monstrous ancient manual register and exit happier for the experience. Or you might have decided to stay a while to browse this mini smokers’ museum.

Smoking pipes of all styles were strategically placed in the window display, alongside tins and plastic wrapped pouches of Ehrlich’s special blends of tobacco, numbering close to thirty. Briar, Meerschaum, Birds Eye and straight grain bowls were easy on the eye and comfortable in the palms of your hands.

Wrapping ones palm around a warm bowl adds a sixth sense of secure identity only pipe smokers can appreciate. I tried different models of pipes during my stay at Ehrlichs, bulldog, short stem, even a calabash which, for a boy of fourteen, didn’t quite fit my self image, but I never settled on one particular design. I tried a cob but quickly discovered it smoked too hot. My biggest challenge was mastering the art of keeping a pipe lit. I didn’t fail at trying to smoke a pipe, I simply knew it wasn’t for me. Instead I opted to admire the pure natural beauty these wooden artifacts projected. When I found myself admiring the pipes in the glass counter I always settled upon the straight grain bowls as my favorites. They were an expensive pipe, at least twenty-five dollars, and certainly not a beginner’s choice.

Ehrlich’s blends ran the breadth of tongue lashing sensation. The 207 blend was one of the mildest, a good beginners bowlful and the one I tried and failed most at keeping lit. Although I’d never smoked cigarettes I did hear others remark upon the 207 as ‘a bit stronger than cigarette tobacco.’ Often, my stubbornness won out even when I’d repeatedly experienced the ‘agony of defeat’. I sacrificed my taste buds as I ‘researched’ a sampling of the Old State House blend, always with a similar result: the inability to taste my mothers sauce and macaroni at that night’s dinner. Ouch, an incredible bite. As far as I was concerned whoever smoked a bowlful of Old State House had a mission in life I was incapable of understanding, or they were seasoned smokers born before 1900.

Ehrlichs also sold cigarettes, some wrapped in brown and black paper, foreign, thin and as long as a number two pencil. Other than the expense, often double their American cousins, they carried a cloud of intrigue which seemed to define those who smoked them, similar to when a dog’s face resembles its owner. Call them European, Middle Eastern, perhaps Beatnik, but whatever the portrayal there was an unmistakable air about anyone who smoked foreign cigarettes. I was fourteen and for all I knew I might have ignorantly practiced class and racial discrimination privately in my mind. I didn’t know any better. Cigars, on the other hand, foreign or domestic, were regarded as a notch above the paper wraps, in most cases quite a few notches above.

Tampers, reamers, pipe cleaners, cigar tip cutters, ashtrays, humidors and more paraphernalia complimented the pipes and tempted your smoking desires. Dave certainly had a flare and honest appreciation for the business he managed. Ehrlichs also sold beautiful amber jewelry, necklaces, bracelets and earrings, some with insects locked within the odd shapes of age-cured resin whose beauty I took for granted.

I’ll let you know about Karl’s workshop, later seated by George Bushee, behind the other front window, along with the business goings-on, the characters who kept the store running and some of the interesting tasks Mr. Fiorello had the confidence to allow me to try my talents at, all in part two.

Copyright© 2011 Michael Cangemi

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