Every time they make a joke, it’s a law. And every time they make a law, it’s a joke.
— Will Rogers (on Congress)
I had forgotten about cigarette ads.
I had forgotten what it was like to pick up a basic American publication such as Life magazine (July 18, 1949) and leaf through its big pages and see one cigarette inducement after another. (They matched up well with the liquor advertisements.)
It might have been our “greatest generation,” but they smoked like chimneys.
My favorite was a full-color, back-cover request from Camels asking you to take the “30-day Mildness Test.” The challenge was issued by the always debonair Cole Porter and included tobacco testimonials from other Camels smokers, including golfer Gene Sarazen (“They’re my choice every time!”); star swimmer Jeanne Wilson (“The mildest and best-tasting cigarette I’ve ever smoked.”); and even Metropolitan Opera star Gladys Swarthout (“I’ve smoked Camels for years!”).
Out of curiosity, I checked to see if smoking might have cut short a few careers. Well, Swarthout died of heart disease at age 68, but Sarazen lived to be 97 and Wilson (now Jeanne Vaughn) was still alive in her 90s.
(Maybe they didn’t inhale.)
THANK YOU: I really need to thank Virginia Peoples for sending me the Life magazine, as well as a box of similarly dated publications, old postcards and even a 1922 college calendar from Dartmouth.
But I still think the copy of Life was my favorite. It had a feature on the humorist Will Rogers, a prostitution scandal involving California cops, and a report on the pampered children of Hollywood stars such as Alice Faye, Humphrey Bogart, Kirk Douglas and Robert Anderson.
All of the stories were bracketed with advertisements for Oldsmobile cars, Ipana toothpaste and Phillips Milk of Magnesia, which no doubt helped the regular readers of Life.
It was a great time to be living in America. A full-page ad from Bell Telephone bragged about improvements in long distance calls that “go through on average in 1.6 minutes – nine times out of 10 while you hold the line.”
Who needed a smartphone in 1949?
MEETING CANCELED: Jimmy Smith the south Augusta power broker wanted me to tell you that this month’s Pride and Progress meeting set for Tuesday night has been canceled. It is Halloween.
BOOK SALE: A book sale will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 4 at the main Augusta library, 823 Telfair St. The Friends of the Library bookshop will be open from 2 to 3 p.m.
TODAY’S JOKE: Another one passed along by Frank Allen.
I asked my daughter if she had seen my newspaper.
She told me that newspapers are old school and handed me her iPad.
The fly didn’t have a chance.
Reach Bill Kirby at email@example.com.