[Paleopsych] WP: (Pipe Smoking) Bowled Over No Longer

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Mon Jun 20 00:31:02 UTC 2005

Bowled Over No Longer

[Happy Father's Day, everyone. I'm one of the dimishing tribe myself and enjoy 
two bowls a day. The brand I once smoked, Fryer's Special Smokynge Mixture, 
truly stated, "This Master blend is made food for the spirit and a subtle 
stimulus for contemplative minds." Some statistics say pipe smokers live longer 
than non-smokers, while one study said that pipe smoking cuts down life 
expectancy by six to eight weeks. Either way, it's worth it.]

    The Once-Ubiquitous Aroma of Fatherhood Is Fading Away

    By Peter Carlson
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, June 19, 2005; D01

    It smelled like cherry or chocolate or chestnuts roasting on an open
    fire. Or leaves burning in the back yard in those long-ago autumns
    when you were still allowed to burn leaves in the back yard.

    In those days, pipe smoke was a man's signature scent. It was the
    incense in the Church of Dad, a burnt offering to the god of
    domesticated masculinity, a symbol of benevolent paternalism.

    A passing whiff of your father's or grandfather's brand -- Erinmore
    Flake, say, or Royal Yacht Mixture -- can summon vivid memories even
    decades after his death. Smell is a key that unlocks the vault of
    memory, and the rich aroma of pipe smoke conjures up a lost world of
    armchairs and ashtrays, humidors and dark-wood racks holding pipes
    with WASPy names like Dunhill and Ferndown and Hardcastle.

    It was a world of wise, contemplative men who sat and smoked and read
    serious, leather-bound literature, as well as a world of rugged
    outdoorsmen, canoeists and fly fishermen and clipper ship captains who
    puffed their pipes as they pored over nautical charts before sailing
    'round the Horn.

    It was a magical world, part reality and part myth, and now it has all
    but disappeared, fading like smoke.

    "A lot of pipe smokers have died and new ones aren't coming along,"
    says David Berkebile, owner of Georgetown Tobacco.

    "The decline has been persistent and unrelenting," says Norman Sharp,
    head of the Pipe Tobacco Council.

    Sharp rattles off the statistics: In 1970, Americans bought 52 million
    pounds of pipe tobacco. In 2004, they bought less than 5 million
    pounds. "That's a decline of 91 percent," he says.

    In a 2003 survey, the Department of Health and Human Services
    calculated that there are 1.6 million pipe smokers in America. The
    same survey revealed that there are 14.6 million pot smokers and
    600,000 crack smokers, which means that if an American is smoking
    something in a pipe these days, it's more likely to be dope than
    Dunhill's Mixture 965.

    But the evidence of the pipe's decline goes beyond statistics. Fifty
    years ago, nearly every male movie star who wanted to be taken
    seriously posed for PR photos smoking a pipe and looking
    contemplative. These days, about the only pipe smokers found in the
    movies are the hobbits in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

    Pipe smoking is going the way of the shaving brush, the straight
    razor, the fedora, the Freemasons, the liberal Republican.

    Maybe that's good, considering the risks of mouth cancers. But there's
    something charming about pipe smoking -- an appealingly retro air of
    reflection and relaxation, a uniquely masculine mystique that's
    somehow large enough to include tweedy professors and Maine hunting
    guides, detectives and novelists, Santa Claus and Gen. MacArthur,
    Albert Einstein and Popeye the Sailor Man.

    And, of course, the kind of father who always knew best.
    Puff of Wisdom

    "I think the appeal of the pipe came from images in movies and pop
    culture," says Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine. "It was an
    image of intelligence and sophistication, like a martini."

    Hefner, 79, is one of America's most famous pipe smokers, although he
    doesn't smoke anymore. He started in 1959, when he began hosting a TV
    show called "Playboy's Penthouse" -- "it was something to do with my
    hands" -- and he quit in 1985 after a stroke.

    "I was very influenced by pop culture, which had certain symbolic
    images of smoking," Hefner says. "Cigars had the symbolic implication
    of a businessman or a politician. Cigarettes could be romantic or
    related to crime in a film noir, but the pipe had a different quality:
    It was both thoughtful and adventurous. I was a fan of the comic strip
    'Terry and the Pirates,' which had a character named Pat Ryan who
    smoked a pipe. He was Terry's mentor and he was kind of a dashing
    hero. One of my influences was Sherlock Holmes. He smoked a pipe and
    he wore pajamas and a smoking jacket, which sounds kind of familiar."

    Hefner laughs at his own famous fondness for wearing pajamas in
    public. "And then," he adds, "there's the pop cultural image of a pipe
    and slippers in front of the fire with a good book and your dog at
    your feet."

    A pipe projects a calm, peaceful image -- except when it's clenched in
    the fiercely resolute jaw of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the only man in
    history who could make an oversize corncob pipe look like a weapon of
    mass destruction.

    Many of the great thinkers of the 20th century puffed on their pipes
    while they pondered deep thoughts: Bertrand Russell, Carl Jung,
    Jean-Paul Sartre, William Faulkner, George Bernard Shaw and, of
    course, Einstein, who once said, "I believe that pipe smoking
    contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human

    For generations, young men entering college began smoking pipes as a
    signal that they were joining the high priesthood of knowledge. A.A.
    Milne, the pipe smoker who created Winnie the Pooh, wrote this about
    his college days: "At eighteen I went to Cambridge and bought two
    pipes in a case. In those days, Greek was compulsory, but not more so
    than two pipes in a case."

    Even Sammy Davis Jr. took up the pipe when he lived in London, keeping
    a corncob in the breast pocket of his natty tweed suit, a look he
    found classy.

    On both sides of the Atlantic, the pipe became a pop symbol of
    contemplation and relaxation. Detectives like Sherlock Holmes and
    Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret were towering intellects who
    smoked pipes and solved crimes through rational deduction. Bing Crosby
    exhibited his ease, his cool , by holding a pipe while he crooned.

    And in the early days of television, sitcom dads like Robert Young in
    "Father Knows Best" and Fred MacMurray in "My Three Sons" were wise
    paternal figures who effortlessly solved all family problems while
    puffing calmly.

    Now, however, contemplation and relaxation are pretty much passe in a
    pop culture that has come to prefer the quick and the dumb to the slow
    and the wise.

    Today, detectives solve crimes with guns. Pop singers are more likely
    to bite the head off a bat than puff on a meerschaum. And Homer
    Simpson, the sitcom dad of our day, doesn't inhale a pipe and exhale
    wisdom. He sucks up vast quantities of Duff beer and belches out

    The pipe is a relic of those bygone days when dads wanted to look --
    and act -- like grown-ups. These days, dads hope to remain young and
    hip, and they're likely to appear in public wearing sneakers, shorts,
    a replica of their favorite quarterback's jersey and a backward
    baseball cap.

    You can't smoke a pipe wearing a backward baseball cap. It just
    wouldn't work. It would be like presiding over the U.S. Supreme Court
    while wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
    Fiddle vs. Burn

    "I started smoking a pipe in the Navy," says Berkebile of Georgetown
    Tobacco. "My father never smoked one, but my brother did. I used to
    smell the inside of it. He smoked a cherry blend and it smelled good.
    There was a lot of nostalgia with that odor."

    Berkebile, 65, is sitting in his office in the attic above his store.
    He flicks a lighter and fires up a cigar. He stopped smoking a pipe
    years ago.

    "I don't have the patience for it anymore," he says.

    When Berkebile founded the store, back in the mid-'60s, well over half
    his business was pipes and pipe tobacco. "In those days," he says,
    "college kids came into the store in groups and started smoking
    pipes." Now pipes account for only about 10 percent of his sales.

    "The pace of life today is much faster, and people don't have the time
    to smoke a pipe," he says. "They don't make the time."

    Pipe smoking takes a lot of time and a lot of bother -- tamping and
    tapping and scraping and cleaning and lighting and relighting and
    re-relighting. It's fiddling-intensive activity. And maybe people just
    don't like fiddling anymore. Or maybe they'd rather be fiddling with
    their computer. Or they just don't have the patience anymore.
    Berkebile doesn't.

    "Pipe smoking isn't convenient," Berkebile says. "You have to have
    tools. You have to have pipe cleaners. If you're on the go, you have
    to take all that stuff with you."

    Walter Gorski, vice president of Georgetown Tobacco, wanders in. He
    sits down, takes out a pipe, fills it with tobacco and lights it up.
    Now 37, he started smoking a pipe back in college.

    "It was one of the only things that kept my dorm room from smelling
    like a sewer," he says, laughing.

    Inspired, Berkebile snuffs out his cigar, rummages around the office
    and returns with a pipe. He fills it with a pinch of Gorski's tobacco,
    tamps it down and lights it up. Aromatic smoke curls toward the
    ceiling while the two men discuss the differences between pipe smokers
    and cigar smokers.

    "Pipe smokers are hobby people," Berkebile says. "They like to collect
    things, esoteric stuff."

    "Touchy-feely stuff," Gorski says.

    "Contemplative stuff. Antiques," Berkebile says. "They're fly
    fishermen -- and fly tie-ers. And chess players."

    Cigar smokers are too cranked up for contemplation, Berkebile says.
    "They're faster paced. Hard chargers. Type A's. They're more
    interested in better cars and better clothing. They're entrepreneurs,
    CEO types."

    Berkebile's wife, Sandy Brudin, walks into the room. He gets up to
    greet her, then he announces that she married her first husband
    because he smoked a pipe.

    She smiles sheepishly and acknowledges that there's a germ of truth to
    that story.

    "He smelled nice," she says.
    Pop's Culture

    There's something about the smell of pipe tobacco that brings back
    memories of fathers and grandfathers and, yes, even ex-husbands.

    "I remember my father smoking a pipe," Brudin says. "I remember liking
    the smell. It was a sweet smell, a comfortable smell. . . . My father
    smelled horsy. He rode horses and he smelled horsy, leathery and
    pipey. He was charming. He was handsome. Movie stars smoked pipes, and
    he smoked a pipe. It was dashing, and I thought he was dashing."

    Allen Haddox, 55, a librarian at the American Insurance Association,
    still recalls the smell of his father's favorite pipe tobacco --
    Dunhill No. 21. "It had a very strong, spicy aroma, kind of on the
    acrid side," he recalls. "Sort of like that smoky scent of the fall
    but sweeter."

    His father worked at the State Department, and Haddox remembers the
    smell of his office. "I would visit him as a kid in the '60s and early
    '70s," he says. "That was the heyday of pipe smoking. My father worked
    in a room with at least 40 people and nearly everyone smoked a pipe.
    It was like going to the bazaar in Istanbul -- you get all kinds of
    different aromas. It was very exotic."

    In America, we've pretty much obliterated aromas from our public
    places -- supermarkets smell about the same as airports these days --
    but you can't deodorize the human memory.

    Sara Newcombe, 25, a recent graduate of New York Law School, recalls
    the unmistakable smell of her father's pipe. "It was a really good
    smell -- vanilla and cherry and chocolate," she says. "I just remember
    it smelling really, really good."

    Like a dad in some ancient New Yorker cartoon, her father would smoke
    his pipe after dinner, sitting in the den with the family dog curled
    up at his feet.

    "It was just a very relaxed time," she says. "He'd be sitting in his
    den, in his study, and he would give us wise advice. My dad is very

    A passing whiff of pipe smoke on the street can bring back the memory
    of that scene, she says.

    But these days, she adds a little wistfully, "it doesn't happen very

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