Both of my grandfathers were tobacco chewers. Chewing was accepted during that era and brass spittoons were usually placed in all courthouses, banks, and post offices.
My paternal grandfather, Fred, enjoyed Spark Plug brand which was available in any grocery or general store during the years of my youth. My maternal grandfather, Issac, always ordered Micky Twists from a tobacco grower in Dresden, Tennessee, and wouldn’t touch anything else. In fact, he loved his Micky Twists so much that if the “chaw” in his mouth was relatively fresh when he was called to dinner, he would often, and secretly spit it back into his tobacco bag to finish later. Perhaps he wasn’t aware that I was watching.
Camels, Lucky Strikes, Chesterfield, Old Golds, and a list that might fill this page, were shunned by most of the old-timers, and referred to as tailor made cigarettes.
Many old-timers preferred Bull Durham tobacco that came in a cloth, drawstring bag. Using special wheat papers they rolled their own, usually with two hands. However, I recall a few possessing the skill to roll and lick with one hand while doing something else with the other.
Roll-you-owns burned more quickly. That statement conjures a memory of a father and son I met in Rudy, Arkansas. While the father showed me his ugly, three-foot scar acquired from a motorcycle accident some forty years prior, his son chain-smoked roll-your-owns. The lad was busy preparing a second one while the first one was growing shorter by the second. The exercise continued non-stop until the old man said Ma was probably waiting supper for them.
My father, Wilfred, preferred his corncob pipe and a load of Granger rough-cut Virginia tobacco. Issac was forever pushing his Micky Twists. One day, during a weak moment, Wilfred loaded up some Micky Twist. After burning through a half-dozen matches he couldn’t make it burn. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he probably had loaded one of those finish-later chaws.
Issac still favored his Micky Twists – real tobacco – when the air force transferred me to Puerto Rico. After Barb and I were settled in, we often went to a public market in downtown Aguadilla (ag-wa-dee’-a) where old women smoked and rolled cigars from locally grown tobacco. Everything was for sale – freshly made cigars, the raw tobacco leaf, or a one-meter-long roll of inch-thick tobacco rope that sold for one dollar.
One day it occurred to me that Issac might enjoy tobacco grown in the West Indies. I bought a “rope” and mailed to my mother who would, in turn, see that he’d know I’d sent it.
She wrote back to me, saying, he eyed the dark rope with caution, and even smelled it. On the second day he hacked off a piece and gave it a road test, as it were. After ten minutes he spit it out and found a place to sit down.