Back to the '60s—Which Cigarette Brands Did You Smoke?

Were Camels your companion, or perhaps you were a Kool kid?

I hate smoke. I’m not one of those ex-smokers who thinks that all smokers should be sent to Timbuktu, but I like clean air. Smoking was never a part of my fabric, but for many, it was.

I remember my mom smoking L&M cigarettes in the '50s and '60s.  It seems there was always a cigarette burning, as she went about her daily tasks of trying to manage six kids, a job as a teacher, and no father around to help with the chores.  She was thin as a pipe, and didn’t have time to smile.  I think cigarettes and a beer were one of her few companions. I can still see that wavy blue haze drifting through the living room as she made the best of what she had, with few complaints.

Three of my siblings smoked. My eldest brother Hal went for Marlboros.  I’m not sure which brand my twin sister Teresa smoked, or what Jack preferred, but they all had their affairs with the ashtray, and have since stopped.

My dad tried to deter Jack from smoking by making him puff on an entire pack when he was caught smoking as a kid.  I know Jack got very sick, but it didn’t stop him from taking up the habit down the road. No one was going to stop Jack from doing anything.

In high school, most of us were smoking other things besides cigarettes. There was pot; there were brownies, and also the hash pipe.  But for many, cigarettes were also part of the drill.  Hey, just look at Mad Men and you’ll see that cigarettes were like the iPads and iPhones of today-the crack of the day.

During the ‘60s kids often took refuge in the school bathrooms to smoke in secret.  At Walter Reed and North Hollywood High, they’d dash their butts into the toilet and wave their arms furiously to clear the air, hoping they wouldn’t get caught.  Kids who smoked were often thought of as cool, brazen, and ahead of the curve.

When I smell a cigarette today, my first reaction is one of disgust.  I know what cigarettes can do.  My mom’s six-month battle with lung cancer was proof of that. Even now, I wonder if my exposure to second-hand smoke for so long might impair me down the road.

But on another level, that smell of a cigarette also brings back fond reminders of my mom. The pungent smell of a cigarette let me know she was nearby, and even though she was emotionally unavailable, she was still around, puffing out her problems, and trying to master the day.

I’m a nervous person, and had I not been so health-conscious, I probably would have ended up smoking.  But I went down the gum aisle instead, chewing wads of Bazooka, Trident, and now Extra.  I really like chewing when I drive. I think it thins the traffic. At the very least, it calms me down.

But for those of you who smoke, or used to smoke, I’d love to hear your stories.  Was Camel your companion? How smooth was Salem? Were you Kool, or did you smoke Kent with the Micronite filter?

teresa mcgrath January 09, 2013 at 03:42 PM
great mary...mom eventually quit smoking after 50 yrs, and used carlton cigs with low tar/nicotine to slowly cut down...she smoked her l/m's a pack or 1.5 packs a day....she had 1 hamm's beer while fixing dinner, and she would let mary and i have one sip...later, i'd smoke carlton with her....had a puff at age 12 with some friends, but hated it...tried to get mom to quit too...in '74, in cotati, calif, while going to sonoma st college, i took cigs up in by first inhaling a cigarillo from one of my 5 roomates, marian rabe...i'd get dizzy and liked it...then i progressed to camel shorts without the filter...wasn't smoking much...then discovered beer, and the cigs increased.. a few friends smoked, but we were all athletes, and didn't overdue it...we would also buy mcnaughten's can of loose tobacco from canada, and roll our own at the penrose pub....saved a lot of money...later i bought what was on sale, and began cutting back by the time i tried carlton ....10 yrs of occasional smoking at banks, grocery stores, bowling alleys, and clubs/dance spots, then quit after having a terrible respiratory illness.....had to chew on straws to satisfy the oral urge....23 - 25 yrs ago after quitting cold turkey, hate the smell...worked in hospitals where it was allowed which was awful...
Mary McGrath January 09, 2013 at 04:46 PM
When I was in the restaurant business, smoking was allowed, and my customers would puff away while I'd take their order. I never smoked, and I'm glad, although I'm sure there was a comfort in that habit for many...
John Wesly Hardin IV January 09, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Either Panama Reds, Spliff K00ls or Alcapulco Gold 100's......
Richard Core (Editor) January 09, 2013 at 11:57 PM
I wasn't of smoking age in the 60s and 70s, but my dad was an Old Gold Filters guy, and I figured I would be too someday. The office where he worked was always clouded with cigarette smoke when my sister and I would visit. Even with the ash trays on desks loaded up with butts, it seemed pretty cool—that's what adults did! That notion quickly faded, though, when Dad started having coughing fits at the dinner table and would have to excuse himself. (I later found out his habit was up to two packs a day.) This was all happening at about the same time the anti-smoking campaign was getting started. Dad finally realized what was going on (with some strong encouragement from Mom) and decided to stop—almost cold turkey (he had some help with nicotine gum). Whatever mental trick he played on himself worked. After a while, he complained of feeling sick whenever he got around cigarette smoke. Thankfully, he's never had lung problems. We're looking forward to his 90th birthday later this year.
Mary McGrath January 10, 2013 at 05:50 PM
That's wonderful Richard. I hear the lungs immediately begin to recover when someone stops smoking. Congrats on still having your dad around...
Betsy Cutter January 11, 2013 at 07:32 PM
I didn't smoke until college and then it was Virginia Slims regulars. I think I tried most major brands (Winston tasted the worst to me; Bel Air I liked best, but it was hard to find.) I got up to 2 packs a day - yikes! I also smoked Swisher Sweets little cigars for awhile. Teresa, I also quit in '87 and have never looked back. My motivation was in wanting to take voice lessons so I could audition for the local opera company. I was successful and performed with them for three years, after which I changed to blues, jazz and swing music. My mom smoked Paxton (remember those, in the little plastic boxes?) and she quit in 1964. My dad smoked and ate antacids until 2005, when he developed esophageal cancer (the medical industry made the connection between ciggies and antacids and cancer last year). he beat the cancer, but he was so worn down from the treatments that he just faded away after fighting like a tiger to live. He smoked Kool shorts, then began using a cigarette holder like FDR used. He switched to Kool filters in the '70s and smoked until a year or so before he passed away. My brother never smoked; my sister smoked a couple of mine when she was 14 and decided it was gross. Both my husbands are ex-smokers. My first husband quit when I did; my current one quit about ten years ago. I also tried Skoal Bandits once and that was enough, LOL!
Betsy Cutter January 11, 2013 at 07:34 PM
Glad your dad is still with you. Treasure every day with him. Mine passed in '06 and I sure do miss him sometimes.
Mary McGrath January 11, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Thanks for your story Betsy...I'm amazed at the stories provided by so many on the Patch. Glad I never smoked, and hope that second-hand stuff doesn't catch up with me.
teresa mcgrath January 11, 2013 at 08:40 PM
betsy, glad you quit, and that the auditions motivated you...love the cig holder story...i can picture it now....you are brave to try skoal! i still know some who smoke even when their family members have died from it...
teresa mcgrath January 11, 2013 at 08:42 PM
john wesley hardin IV, wise choice, hahaha
teresa mcgrath January 11, 2013 at 09:06 PM
now there is 3rd hand smoke from people's clothes, hair, etc...2nd hand, i'm sure we are all affected...


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