Monday, June 27, 2005

I was hooked by the smooth gummy flavor

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 Washington area. Dear reader, you have probably never heard this story, for it was a time before blogs and it never made it into the local papers. Not even that little neighborhood paper that turns to mush in you driveway. Ladies and gentleman, I speak of nothing less than the Great Candy Cigarette Ban of 1989.

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.


The Governess said...

So, I looked up ole GD because the last thing I remember from him was the unfortunate "Greencard."

Holy maird, the Frenchy's been BUSY. IMDB, check it.

tom said...

Last year I lived about 3 blocks from Ayer's, and roommate Charles grew up 2 blocks from it. Our mutual friend Jeff also lived in the neighborhood, and worked there in middle and high school, as did our buddy Scott. And all of us went to Swanson, which is just up the street.

So I speak from experience when I say that Ayer's is the best store, of any kind, ever. Fun fact: Mr. Ayers died on the couch in the breakroom. He lied down for a nap and never got up. As of Jeff's last visit to the store, the couch is still there.

Lady Jane Grey said...

The Duchess and I used to walk home from Tuckahoe Elementary together and I definitely remember stoping at an ice-cream truck to buy that glorious contraband. Good memories. What little rebels we were!

I also used to wear an acid-washed JEAN VEST and YELLOW SUSPENDERS. Holy crap. I'll post the picture if I can find it. That's right, no shame, people.

Lady Jane Grey said...

No way - I'm a Swanson alumn too!

The Governess said...

PS Nabob-math: uh, weren't you a little old to be gallavanting around poolside, affecting French? Or was that just your sly way of catching some ladies? Ladies love French dudes, or so I've heard.

GC (God's Child) said...

I hate ice cream trucks--they are loud and they carry germs

the Nabob said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
the Nabob said...

the Nabob said...

1. Governess: a little old? I think I was twelve, that's a perfect prancing age.

2. Tom: Hmmm. Could we possibly know each other outside the blog world? I attended the rival North Arlington white bread intermediate school.

3. LGJ: Mama Nabob has a copy of you and the Duchess in said outfit.

4: girl jesus: indeed.

tom said...

Tom: Hmmm. Could we possibly know each other outside the blog world? I attended the rival North Arlington white bread intermediate school.

I donno. Maybe. There are various pictures of me on Catherine & my blog, so perhaps you can tell me. Judging by your icon you may be one of my dead ancestors, but it's hard to say.

Anyway it's probably for the best if we don't know each other, since your status as a the Williamsburg alum automatically makes us bitter, bitter enemies. Pistols at dawn?

michelle said...

I grew up on the other side of the river (no, not that far, ew MARYLAND!) but we had similar such things happen in upper Northwest at the Mount Vernon College pool in the late 80s. But you could still score candy cigs at MacArthur Drugs.

(PS: I love Ayers hardware and variety. best store ever. Except for Brown's and Cherrydale Hardware, which also have the sleds and the grumpy old men.)

tom said...

Never been to Brown's, but I wasn't such a fan of Cherrydale hardware, even though I grew up down the street from it (apparently my childhood was solely directed toward making me a hardware store afficianado). Sure, you've got the sleds, but what about weird $2 kitchen implements? And cap guns? And santa at Christmas?

Also, it was under a masonic lodge, which is creepy.

Michelle said...

Masonic Lodges are always creepy. We used to squeal and run away from the one in downtown Chincoteague when I was a kid. Mainly because we're freaks.

How could you not like Cherrydale Hardware? They have the glowing snowman at Christmas, yo.

(My mom was a Cherrydale native.)