03/12/2014 07:26 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Discovering A Different Side Of My Dad

I thought I knew my Dad. Well, I knew the persona he presented to the public; the tough guy exterior with a marshmallow interior. It wasn't until after his death that I discovered file boxes full of his poems, drawings, articles, short stories and letters. His love letters to my Mom I published in previous blogs. However his well crafted "complaint letters" to customer service departments, tactfully demanding the services or products that were promised, are priceless. They were written with a bit of sarcasm and wry humor. That side of my Dad I miss!

I found a short story about why he started smoking. Now, I know he quit smoking in 1965, after being treated and cured of cancer. He took up needlepoint to keep his hands busy...more on that in future blog posts. So I can place the date of this story in the early 1950s. Also the fact that it was done on an old typewriter and the "onion-skin" paper was aged. His later writings were done on a computer -- yet another blog I will have write; "How I Taught My Dad the Computer!" But now his story about meeting Joe Camel:


Long before there were health warnings on cigarette packages my family had its own warning system. My mother told me if I smoked, it would stunt my growth. Since I wanted to put a stop to being intimidated by my two older sisters, I heeded my mother's warning.


But I was 6' tall in grade school and still growing, so she then warned me: "If you smoke your teeth will turn brown and fall out, but the tooth fairy will not leave money for teeth that fall out this way!" Then she warned that if I smoked in bed the house would catch fire and we would have to go to the poor house.
My father remarked every time he saw our neighbor light up that he was driving another nail in his coffin. So I asked the kid next door if his father was really building a coffin. He didn't know what the heck I was talking about!
So you see that both my parents warned me of the harsh punitive and disciplinary actions that would happen if they caught me smoking.
In High School and College the coaches also warned of the ill effects of cigarettes. Since I needed all the help I could get just to be allowed on the field, I didn't smoke.
In the army, at break time the instructor would say, "Take ten, smoke 'em if you gottem!" To be one of the boys I rolled a Bull Durham, but I must have done something wrong because when I lit up, the thing caught fire and burnt my nose hairs. So that ended that!
Even the catchy slogans of the day had no effect on me. For example, Old Gold's slogan was "Not a cough in a car load." Chesterfield - "They Satisfy." A midget bellhop would page - "Call for Phillip Morris." Also, "I'd walk a mile for a Camel" was the slogan before Joe Camel. Lucky Strike - "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet." Lucky Strike announced they were going to war when they changed the color of their package from green to white... and so did I.
I was stationed in Oran, North Africa, the Army issued either Chelsea, Fleetwood or British Player cigarettes. These could be traded to the indigenous folk at the rate of 1 cigarette for 1 egg or 1 orange. I enjoyed this trading policy until my unit had to go to the sound of gunfire in Tunisia. When the shooting stopped and we returned to our old area, inflation was out of control. The egg and orange vendors now wanted ONE PACKAGE of smokes for an egg or orange. That wasn't all they wanted, the cigarettes had to be of the type they were pointing to over in the field - Camels. So trading with Ali Baba, et al, is how I met his camel - Joe!
In order to be a successful commodity's trader, I amassed a large supply of Camels. But the war moved on and I was left with nobody to barter with; so I started to smoke my own merchandise.
Even when I had to pay for cigarettes, I still smoked Camels until I read in Readers' Digest that smoking inhibited one's sex life. So I quit smoking! But my hands kept shoving things in my face. This meant that my waistline expanded which really hampered my sex life. So I hopped back on the camel, Joe Camel that is, and started smoking... again!

Okay, so he's no Hemingway! I still enjoy discovering his life through these snippets of stories. Plus all the memorabilia he saved, from Phillies ticket stubs, old photos, newspaper articles, and even his report cards from second grade.

His most interesting stories are of World War II. Toward the end of his life he was contacted by many "history buffs" asking him for his recollections about the war. These first hand accounts of the action he saw, along with his humorous poems and more love letters will be featured in my future posts.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

What Would You Say To Your 20-Year-Old Self?