Friday, August 8, 2008

cigarette smoking in the 60s

in the 50s and 60s, i think a pack of 10 sticks of double ace non-filtered cigarette cost 25 cents, which worked out to 2.5 cents a stick. capstan was 30 cents a pack and john players, 35 cents. in the 60s, the only filtered and mentholated brand of cigarette was consulate.

the other brands that i remember that were available in the past included 555 state express, matterhorn, navy's cut, lucky strike and benson & hedges.

today, a pack of camel costs $11.60 for 20 sticks, which is 58 cents a stick.

as there was no age restriction on smoking, boys as young as seven years old - starting primary 1 - could be seen puffing away. like most kampong boys, i did have a go at it but thankfully, i did not enjoy the experience, so it did not stick. the bigger boys tried to impress us by inhaling and then exhaling the smoke through the nostrils.

in those days, the mamak stall - there was one at the corner of kampong chia heng and thomson road - and the two provision shops in the kampong sold cigarettes in packs of 10s as well as in loose forms. in other words, you could buy one stick of cigarette if you chose to. they usually stored the loose cigarettes in a small, round 555 state express tin. for as little as 5 cents you could enjoy a puff then.

as a young boy, i used to run errands for the adults by going to the mamak stall or the provision shops to buy the loose cigarettes for them. some would buy just one cigarette but most times they would buy three or four sticks.

people picked up the habit of smoking for various reasons but for some kampong folks one of the most compelling reason/excuse was to stave off the smell while using the common latrines. it was common to see even women smoking when they went to use the communal 'jamban'.

the javanese and boyanese who lived in my kampong usually smoked kretek which is a blend of tobacco, cloves and a flavouring 'sauce'. kretek originated from indonesia. it has a distinct smell. the name kretek comes from the crackling sound of the burning cloves. today, you can get the manufactured ones under the brand 'garam'.

like those singaporeans of indonesian origin, the older folks and nyonyas also liked to smoke hand-rolled 'ang hoon', which is actually loose tobacco. some of them actually chewed the tobacco, the way some indians used to chew the betel nuts.

the sold 'ang hoon' was wrapped in paper and packed in the form of a brick. each time, the ang hoon smoker wanted a puff, he would remove a segment, loosen the tobacco and wrap it with a piece of white square paper.

another way of enjoying 'ang hoon' was to use a metal pipe, about 60cm long, with the end dipped in water. at the two-third mark was a holder for the loose tobacco. the smoker would light the tobacco and then placed his mouth to the open end. as he enjoyed his smoke, you could hear the gurgling sound of the water in the container.

popular with the indians was the bidi cigarettes. it was also a hand-rolled cigarette, usually tied at both end with a colourful string. it was wrapped in a tendu or temburni leaf. you can still get bidi from some shops in serangoon road.

my father was quite a heavy smoker, smoking up to one pack of double ace cigarettes each day. i am so glad that none of us, me and my siblings, pick up this unhealthy habit.


PChew said...

You forgot two other brands of cigarettes. There were Craven "A" and Rough Rider. The former had a head of a black cat. The latter had a picture of a cowboy riding on a wild horse. I smoked ang hoon during my school days. I got free tobacco from my mother.

yg said...

now that you mentioned, i remember craven 'a' but rough rider did not seem to be a popular brand. how was ang hoon different from the manufactured non-filtered cigarette? was the ang hoon of an inferior quality?

Lam Chun See said...

Now that you mention it, I remember the Ang Hoon.

Lam Chun See said...

Did you mention Malborough. When we were adults, I often see friends smoking Dunhill.

Anyway, the cigarette advertisements were quite memorable.

yg said...

didn't mention because they are still available today. the name is marlboro although it is named after marlborough street in england. maybe the americans shorten the name. the very haunting advertisement was 'marlboro country'.

Victor said...

Other brands of cigarettes then were Pall Mall, Peter Stuyvesent and Abdullah 37.

yg said...

can recall pall mall and peter stuyvesent but not abdullah 37.

Anonymous said...

My best memory was observing young girls; probably about 7 yrs of age, singing whilst their father played the Chinese violin. They sold kanas and cigarettes. This was a moving experience for me as a child that inspire me "not to be poor when I grew up. There was another time I saw in a backlane off Middle Road (near Swee Kee restaurant and one community center) which had stalls serviving steam-boat. Small boys selling cigarettes to diners.

It also instilled in me the sense of not being arrogant when one is successful.

I might be accused by others as being too sentimentalist or unable to forget the past. I tell myself what is to be ashamed of one's past when the important thing is the "Finish Line" and what you have done with your life?

yg said...

peter, i remember the steam-boat stalls located in the backlane between middle road and liang seah street. ate there with my former colleagues. don't remember seeing boys selling cigarettes.

there was a hylam street nearby, right?

Anonymous said...

victor, i'm sure you also know about this crude joke teasing the opposite sex smoking abdullah 37, right?

Victor said...

Nah (and I mean "no" too), I only know what crude acronym GOLD LEAF stands for but sorry, I think it's too raw to repeat here.

As for MARLBORO, it stands for "Men Always Respect Ladies Because Of Romance Only".

yg said...

peter, i happened to walk past the former steam-boat place at middle road today. the community centre is still around; however, the place is all locked up.

Lam Chun See said...

I remember this ash tray whereby you push a button on the edge of a circular metal bowl and the centre slides open.

Cigarette in tins where often offered during weddings in the old day.

yg said...

ya, those push down ash trays, i also remember. the button is at the middle.

yes, someone among the greeting party would offer cigarettes from a tin to the guests as they were about to enter the restaurant.

the well-off hosts would even leave a tin of cigarettes at each table.

Anonymous said...

Smoking cigarettes is really an expensive habit. The average price per pack of cigarettes, for example, is just about one dollar; people who smoke two packs of cigarettes a day therefore spend $2 per day on their habit. At the end of one year these smokers incur a huge debt.

davidlee said...

I think in the late 60's they started with the 6 packs (ie 6 sticks in a pack) as cigarettes increased in prices. There was one brand not available in local shops except in the British military bases. The brand is 'Embassy'.