Monday, December 05, 2005

the other dirty weed

This is a 10 cigarette-pack dispenser--a carton's worth. It is a relic of the 1940s and maybe older. It's on the wall next to the laundry room in the basement. Attached is this bit of doggerel, quite popular in its time:

Tobacco is a dirty weed: I like it.
It satisfies no normal need: I like it.
It makes you thin. It makes you lean.
It takes the hair right off your bean:
It's the worst darn stuff I've ever seen:
I like it.

-Cornwall Industries

It looks like a coffin standing on end. Maybe that's part of the joke.

Though the folks at Cornwall Industries didn't see fit to provide attribution, it was written by Graham Lee Hemminger in 1915 for his campus humor magazine, when he was 20. It was widely reprinted.

This insouciant attitude is rare now--we live longer than ever before, but are nervous health nellies. Living forever is serious business--no jokes allowed. A hundred years ago, if you lived long enough that it was tobacco that killed you, that wasn't too bad.

Aunt Ella, a heavy smoker, got cancer of the jaw in 1961 but after they removed one side of her jaw (I'll never forget the "unveiling" afterwards), lived another 30 years and eventually died of just being ancient. Aunt Betty who did not smoke but lived in the same smoke-filled house got cancer of the tongue but died of being old and fat (I believe the medical term is "diabetes"). Uncle Walter smoked cigars and died of heart failure. My father didn't smoke but drank too much and died of colon cancer.

Hemminger lived to the ripe old age of 55.

No comments: