[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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.
"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,
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
"He smelled nice," she says.
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
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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