Saturday, September 19, 2009

Turn back to 1979

That was the year I started my present job. Scares you? Believe me, it scares me.

But this is about smoking. In 1979 you were a thoughtless host at a party if you didn't provide ashtrays spread around you home for a party. If you were of a European bent, you would have cigarettes spread around for your guests. You were thoughtless if you did not ask a guest in your house if they smoked, and if they did, you should offer them an ashtray.

Kiddies may have followed their parental example by stuffing pine needles into a straw and lighting it, and then coughing their lungs out. Perhaps they liked to hold a 'fag' in their hands before eating the delectable sweet.

People wandered around shops back then just like they do now, except there was a good chance they would have a cigarette in their hand. If they needed two hands to examine a garment in Myer, they would stick their ciggie in their mouth.

Of course people needed to smoke while they were doing the supermarket shopping. It was and still is a stressful experience. A bit of ash on the broccoli did not matter. Hang on, there wasn't broccoli in the supermarket back then. Iceberg lettuce then, except it was just a lettuce. No one knew the name of it.

My fervently anti doctor father liked one doctor at least when he visited his surgery and noticed an overflowing ashtray.

R just told me of gay doctor at a surgery in Middle Park who would always offer his patients a Benson and Hedges cigarette. How to make your cigarettes tax deductible #101. He was Herbie Gibson. Do I have any aged gay reader who has not made themselves known? Time to speak up if you remember Herbie. I have been told he was an expert at prostate examination and many guys embarrassed themselves under his ministrations.

The tram driver and tram conductor would sit in their tram at the terminus and have a smoke together. The country trains had smoking or non smoking compartments. People smoking on planes were always down the back of the aircraft. No matter. The air circulated through the whole plane anyway.

In your office, it is your desk, so you will smoke at it and everyone did. Of course the office worker needed to smoke during their lunch break in the canteen.

After a meal in a restaurant people will need to have a smoke. They need to have one before hand too. Some hardcore had one between courses. Even more hardcore had one between bites.

So back in 1979, we should have been suffocating in cigarette smoke. We were constantly surrounded by a fug of cigarette smoke. Yet no one seemed to notice it.

Now, walk past an office building and you can't help but notice the stench of cigarettes near the doorway. Stand at a tram stop, smell someone smoking and you look around to see who the guilty party is. I recently heard a kiddie say sotto voice, Mummy, look, that man is smoking. You walk past someone who has recently smoked and you can smell it on their breath.

On the positive side, I have kissed plenty of guys who smelt of smoke, which may or may not be a turn on, but every person I have ever come across who has bad breath has been a non smoker. Now almost everyone is a non smoker so it no longer really applies, but I make this point from thirty years plus experience.

Then there was the nineties where people stopped smoking inside buildings and went out onto balconies or stairways or just outside. But the smokers were the interesting people and the lives of the party. Those left inside sat around staring at each other while the smoking people outside were entertaining all and sundry.

People are now severely restricted as to where they can smoke, yet people smoking seems to have far more impact now. We notice the smell of smoke. The societal change has been truly remarkable. From social norm to leper in two to three decades. Sadly most of the smokers from 1979 popped off a bit early and are not around to argue the point.

Warning: Medical authorities warn that smoking is bad for your health.


  1. I started working on Valentines Day 1968 and was surrounded by all these returned World War 2 veterans in their dark suits besmirched by cigarette ash down their lapels.

    There were no married women in the office because in those days women still had to resign from the Public Service when they married but that was about to change.

    And we used to get our wages in cash in little brown envelopes every fortnight. I used to bank all but $30 which was enough to cover all my costs for the fortnight, including petrol for the car. There was no such thing as credit cards or ATMs.

  2. Anonymous11:15 am

    My first job after graduating from high school was with a firm of Chartered Accountants in Malvern. At the time I was a smoker and naturally, I was allowed to smoke at my desk, along with everyone else.

    Every Friday night was 'drinky-poos' in the boardroom. On the dot at 5pm, everyone from the partners to the lowliest office clerk (me!) would down pens, cover electric typewriters (word processors were just around the corner) and converge in the big room to enjoy a glass or two or three or four... of whichever spirit took our fancy. Of course there'd be an array of snacks such as nuts and chips to munch on between sips. The partners often left early but we plebs could stay on, as long as there was a manager present. Some nights the drinking would end quite late and we'd all be quite merry. Manys the time I missed my tram/bus connection and had to walk home to Ashburton from the end of the Glen Iris tram route.

    It was my job to keep the bar in stock. Staff were allowed to request their favourite tipple and as the keeper of the bar, there was always a bottle of Bundaberg rum in the cupboard - my chosen poison at the time. In addition to the spirits, there'd also be a selection of mixers. All of this was paid for by Management. I doubt any company does this anymore. Vik.

  3. Have been watching Ashes to Ashes (set in 1981) and George Gently (set in 1960s) and we often notice how frequently the characters are lighting up/butting out or just plain puffing away on a ciggie.

  4. I should just mention, perhaps, that up until recently (because she's probably popped her clogs by now) the oldest woman in the world (she was about 122 at the last count) was often seen on British telly explaining her longevity. She put it down to the fact that she'd quit smoking at the age of 120 because she'd been told it was bad for her...

  5. Forgotten about the ash Victor. Some never cared about where it went. The good old days of pay packets containing proper money. Ahhh.

    Vik, where our friend T works, they have a bar and open in Friday night for drinks.

    Noticed that Jayne and that other show. Name slips me but where the guy went back in time and was a copper.

    All in the genes Brian. All in the genes.

  6. Anonymous9:04 pm

    Well, I'm pleased the Friday night drinking sessions live on!

    I think you're thinking of 'Life on Mars'. It was the forerunner of Ashes to Ashes and set in the
    '70s. Great show. Vik.

  7. It was indeed that show Vik. I am very tired.

  8. every person i've come across with bad breath has been a coffee drinker. Add smoking to that for a dose of lethal killer breath!

  9. Smoking may well be bad for your health, but by fuck it is (or should that be was?) great from a social perspective. The beer garden of any pub I've been too is always the best place to be. There's more fun to be had in the smoking section of a bar or restaurant (when such a thing still existed) an the smokers on the balcony at a party are great fun. I should know. I'm one of 'em!

  10. Doctors and nurses used to tell patients to stop smoking and then go out and have a puff on their break..oh, wait, their break bing inside the hospital back then. Now, it is the same, except the staff must go out front of the hospital and smoke with the very patients they told not to smoke..

  11. Anonymous5:35 pm

    Hey, speaking of TV shows, guess what I'm watching tonight - the Skippy doc!! Hope it was worth it. Vik.

  12. C'mon Fenz. Nearly everyone is a coffee drinker.

    Indeed I know that Mutant. I notice non smokers like to gather outside with smokers.

    Cazzie, as you would know, many nurses and doctors used to smoke. See it very rarely now.

    Well done Vik. How did you get it? I haven't watched it yet.

  13. Anonymous7:56 am

    I'm almost as bad as you Andrew started my current job in 1981. Bring on my retirement, can't wait. And I am one of those nasty smokers - we are a dieing breed. But heck enjoy your life while ya can.

    And those do gooders will be attacking the drinkers next - you mark my words. This country is becoming very boring fast.

  14. Yep Anon, we may live to be very old, but we might miss out along the way and end up bored and full of regrets.

  15. yup, and all you coffee drinkers have bad breath!!

  16. I just visualised your flat mate ad Fenz. Coffee drinkers need not apply.

  17. My husband & I became a couple in 1979 & will mark our 30th in a few weeks. When we got together:
    a computer was the sizw of a room & the idea that almost everyone would have a computer & that you could take them anywhere would have seem nutty.

    Phones were large & clunky & tethered to a wall. They did not take photos.

    You were allowed to smoke in cafes & on planes.

    The worst things you could catch from having sex could be cleared up with a dose of pills.

    TV in the USA had 4 channel choices, although there was talk of something called cable TV... that you would have to pay for.

    Just a few of the changes in 30 years. Nice blog, young man. I just surfed in & I will be back.

  18. Hi Stephen and welcome. Congrats to you both. I had a mental picture of standing in front of a wall mounted phone and waiting for the flash to go off as it snapped your photo.