Sprite Badge from the BrowniesTobacco Tales

Whilst writing my Channeling my Inner Ballerina post, it evoked memories of my one-day smoking career when I was a Sprite in the Brownie.

Be Prepared

As any good Brownie knows, the motto “be prepared” is drilled into you at each weekly gathering. Pocket inspections take place at random- and all good Brownies had a pencil, piece of paper, safety pin and piece of string all readily available in their pockets.

If anyone wonders why women carry so much in their handbags – blame it on Brownies Brainwashing.  From day one we’re taught about the importance of filling our pockets with the essentials.  Later in life, we evolve from pockets to handbags.

Woodbine Test Run

Woodbine Cigarette AdvertisingAt the tender age of 8, a year into my tenure as a Brownie Sprite, my inner ring leader tendencies started to materialize.  I dragged a few unsuspecting Sprites to the cigarette vending machine on the Air Force base we lived on, and we pooled the six-pences from our Brownie subs to purchase a pack of 5 Woodbine.

For those of you unfamiliar with these – Woodbines were unfiltered cigarettes, and not for the faint-hearted.

A gaggle of giggling 8 year olds hid the in bushes to toke on an unfiltered cigarette.  The anticipated pleasures of smoking was completely lost on us, and we couldn’t fathom why this was a regular past-time for adults.

This side adventure nearly made us late for our weekly Brownies meeting, so we ran all the way.  Unbeknownst to us, we reeked of Woodbine as we filed past Brown Owl, and innocently headed to our Sprite troupe area to recite the Brownie oath.

After the oath — Brown Owl announced a pocket inspection.  Imagine my shame as I emptied out my pockets for inspection…. pencil, paper, safety pin, string … book of matches and an open pack of 4 Woodbine!

Enter King Edward VII

I was frog marched out of the room and straight home. I dreaded the reaction of my parents, especially my dad. But his reaction surprised me. He coaxed me onto the pouff positioned in front of him and said “If you want to smoke you have to do it correctly, let me show you how”.

He reached for his box of King Edward cigars, and went through the laborious process of lighting one up. Followed by a few deep, enjoyable tokes, accompanied with the instructions to “take the smoke deep into your lungs by swallowing it, then blow it out of your nose like a snorting bull”

I was transfixed by the process, and couldn’t wait for my turn. So much for being scared about being busted for smoking a Woodbine!  I’d hit the grown up jackpot.

I balanced the lit cigar between my nimble little fingers, and took a huge gulp of smoke into my lungs.

So far so good.

After a brief feeling of mature satisfaction, the smoke came hurling out of my mouth and nose, with a strangled choke.  My eyes welled up with tears, and I spent the rest of my cigar-smoking experience in a holy trinity of hacking, coughing and crying. My throat burned.  Lesson learned.

The top of the box may have said “mild tobacco” – but there was nothing mild about this experience.