The recent kerfuffle over the smoking restrictions in DC has reminded me of another ban that caused just as much consternation and threats of economic meltdown in the
It all began early that summer when the ice cream man who made his daily rounds to the local swimming pools, began to carry these wondrous confections. I'd have to say the words riot and panic are too tame to describe the reactions exhibited by the children (myself included) at their discovery. And these weren't the lame gum flavored sticks that I've seen recently at some stores. These babies were bubble-gum, wrapped in paper with a small deposit of a flour-like substance that blew one or two charges of "smoke." Lucky Lights was my brand.
Imagine 50 children running around the pool, screaming their pre-pubescent sugar-amped yelps with their new vice clinched in their lips. "Look at me! I'm Gerard Depardieu!" we'd screech before taking long puffs with the cigarettes pinched between our thumb and forefinger. (I had a friend who's mom was a French teacher and was a fan of the old Gerard. As kids was associated everything foreign as something he would do.)
"Je suis, how you say? 'Handsome as fuck.'"
Anyway, when the collective parents found out that kids were emulating their favorite Francophile actors, the hammer fell. The ice cream guy could still sell ice cream outside the pool, but he had to take the cigarettes off the menu. This lasted about a minute because we found out that we could meet the guy down the street, away from the pool, and buy ‘em there. By “found out” I really mean the guy said “Meet me down the street, away from the pool, and you can buy ‘em there.” The hammer fell harder.
This, of course, led to the “ban” itself. Candy cigarettes were forbidden anywhere within the footprint of the pool. The ice cream man was told he could not come back for three months, effectively ending his entire summer business. That pretty much put an end to that.
Somebody knew somebody in the school system and when we returned in the fall we were told on the first day that candy cigarette possession was automatic detention. There was a brief revival when someone discovered that the local hardware store* sold them and candy cigarettes became a lunchroom contraband currency. But that too was short lived.
So where did kids run to escape this cruel grip of authority? Naturally, denied of the joys of candy cigarettes, many turned to the open arms of Philip Morris, Lorillard, and RJ Reynolds.
*if you are ever in the Westover section of Arlington, say dining at the Lost Dog Cafe, make sure to cross the street and visit Ayer's Hardware and Variety. Not only does it sell a wide variety of candied foodstuffs, hardware and other oddities, but it's one of the few places left were you can buy realistic toy guns and metal-railed red racer type sleds.