I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Past Due Tuesday; "Coffee Table" lighter.

Picture this... A beautiful coffee table filled with hors d'oeuvres, a bowl of mixed nuts, some flowers, large photography books on Paris and The Opera Houses of Europe, a tray of cigarettes and this lighter. My Mother's lighter.
It's sometime in the 1950's. Mom and Dad are having a party. Guests arrive. Coats are carried to the bedroom, everyone is handed a drink of choice and the room fills with cigarette smoke and laughter.
Later there is a wonderful dinner and the talking and laughing continues. My sister and I have gone to bed and I listen to the happiness of my parents friends enjoying themselves. It is a common scene in our house.
Mom's sits down at the piano and starts to play The Whiffenpoof Song and then, Time After Time. Someone comes over and starts to sing. Then another .., and soon a group forms around the piano and someone starts harmonizing. It's a warm and happy memory that has stayed inside of me after all these years. Even the cigarette smoke has become a part of this memory. I still love the smell of it.
Dad never smoked, but my mother did..., from just after high school to around 40 years of age. It was socially acceptable and she never thought about the consequences of smoking until she was in her late 30's and kept getting Bronchitis.
When she passed away this summer, she had damaged lungs and breathing problems that were irreparable. She could not have anticipated the damage that those years of smoking did to her.

So , I have mixed feelings about this little lighter. It's beautiful and it was always on our coffee table, as far back as I could remember..., but it represents a time when smoking was done without a moment of thought..., when life was all about "After the WAR" and "Aren't we glad it's over." and having a good time. It was about buying a "pack" with "filters" and which brand was the best tasting.

This lighter was a Ronson. It was a popular maker of cigar and cigarette lighters back then. The pattern was"Queen Anne" . You filled it with lighter fluid through the bottom, unscrewing the small bolt that said "fill here" and tipping the can of lighter fluid into it. I got to do it a few times with my Dad watching me carefully. It came with green felt on the bottom to protect the table. I loved pushing the top down and watching the flame appear.
You would think that all of this "taking care of the lighter" would have lead to wanting to try a cigarette and it did once or twice, but I actually didn't like smoking so I never formed the "habit" others did. I do remember carrying candy cigarettes in my pocket and "pretending" when I was little. Do they even make those anymore?

An advertisement at the time said....
"Why Miss Anne Gould, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jay Gould, prefers Camels" With a picture of a lovely, wealthy heiress smoking a cigarette and looking very sophisticated and stylish.
And the small print says..."Why do I smoke Camels? Because I honestly like their taste better than any of the other cigarettes," says Miss Gould."Like most of the girls I know, I prefer a mild cigarette -- that's another reason I am devoted to Camels. Besides, I see no reason for letting cigarettes make you nervous -- Camels never make me edgy or jumpy."And I really believe you could smoke Camels forever and ever and not get tired of their fine, smooth flavor."
No one knew any better then. It was the "cool" thing to do. It was what "smart" women wanted. It was fashionable. ..., and still, today, the charade goes on. At least now, women can MAKE A CHOICE with all the scary information "on the table"..., not a dish of cigarettes and a lighter.

Please join Roomies: Past Due Tuesday and share your vintage items with us. It's fun. It's interesting..., and you'll learn things you never knew before. This is a brand new vintage venue for all your wonderful old things. Join us won't you?

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  1. What a great idea! You know i really wonder if the cigarettes make people sick or all the chemicals sprayed on the tobacco. Do they make organic cigarettes? My grandma loved to puff a cigar after dinner with her girl friends, so Danish. I never really liked smoking I did try it. I loved candy cigarettes when I was little and of course those would be totally politically incorrect and can't possibly be made anymore.

    Your memory of your moms evening is so pleasant, especially the singing around the piano, and I am sure she wouldn't have traded it for anything. I love the lighter it is beautiful.

  2. Your mother's cigarette lighter is just beautiful, and since it is a keepsake I would display it on the coffee table. I did smoke but have not had a cigarette for over 40 years. I quit cold turkey and I am glad I did with all that we know what smoking and second hand smoke can do. Thank you for your visit and nice comment to my last post. Your memory of your family and the parties they had sound like a lot of fun. Have a great evening and take care of yourself .

  3. Hello,
    I love your story, and can imagine lying in bed and listening to the party downstairs!
    My parents had a VERY similar lighter (probably a Ronson but it's gone now). The design was good - it "felt" right when you held it. My mother didn't smoke, my father did although he never smoked around us. When company came over, we set out the lighter and ashtrays.
    Thank you for bringing back this memory!

  4. What a bittersweet story. Thanks for sharing.

  5. What a lovely item that invokes a wonderful memory. Love the way it is paired with the delicate doily. They still do make the candy cigarrettes. But now they make chocolate ones too!!!

  6. How in the world did you remember all the words in that commercial? You got it memorized or something? I remember similar happy voices at parties. And the smell of the lighter fluid.

  7. My parents had a set of two of that exact same lighter! They used to sit on the end tables... each next to a little box full of cigarettes. I think the boxes were china.
    We used to hate polishing those lighters, because of all the intricate little nooks and crannies, but I would give anything to have them back again!

  8. very cool lighter much cooler memories...

  9. "I saw the lighter and recognized it immediately! Once upon a time when I was a very little girl, I loved to visit at my best friend’s house. She didn’t use the moniker, FARMLADY then. We lived about 1 block apart in a brand new housing tract called Gregory Gardens. I probably never told you, FARMLADY, how much I always liked being in your house; I thought the mahogany furniture was so beautiful. There were lovely knickknacks everywhere, including a live plant in a real decorative pot sitting on a table in front of the living room window. I always thought that REAL silver lighter, sitting on the coffee table, looked so elegant. Your reminiscings of the parties at your house made me wonder whether you remember the night I slept over (we weren’t 7 yet because L had not been born; I’m not sure that she was even on the way) and, in our pajamas, we wandered into the kitchen where there were many "empty" cocktail glasses that had been deposited by the guests. Most of the glasses still contained a teaspoon’s worth, or so, of liquid in the bottom. You and I, 6 years old at the most, drinking this residue as fast as we could (which I’m sure was 99% water from melted ice) and we just knew we were getting drunk. We giggled, and we shushed—don’t call attention we might get sent back to bed, giggled some more, got dizzy, slurred our speech and giggled some more. Oh boy, were we bombed! I’m happy you have that lighter, I feel like it’s my keepsake too. If I’m fortunate enough to get to the Mother Lode again one day, I may just have to light up once more for old time’s sake.


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