Cigarette Machines Were Everywhere

I’m fifty-six. If you’re ten plus years younger than me you will be aghast when I tell that cigarette vending machines were everywhere including laundromats, gas stations, restaurants, bars, diners, hospitals, churches, movie theaters — really anywhere people congregated.

Naturally the cigarette machines had a stern warning: “Must Be 18 to Purchase Cigarettes”. Oh, like, okay. Hmmm. I’m in a laundromat, or a washateria as they were called in those days in South Carolina, and there is no one there except for two people washing their clothes. I’m sixteen. Who the hell is going to ask me if I’m eighteen? No one. The two people washing their clothes are smoking.

Not only could you buy cigarettes everywhere but they were cheap. You could buy four packs of cigarettes for a dollar at most stores ($1.04 with tax). You could buy a pack of cigarettes for twenty-seven cents a pack at the Direct Station on John C. Calhoun Drive. Gasoline was twenty-five cents a gallon. This is an aside but there used to be off-brand gas stations everywhere which sold gasoline for a cheaper price. I don’t know how it was different. Maybe it was stale but it worked fine.

You could also buy cigarettes in the airport, of course, and as soon as the plane was off the runway the “no smoking” sign would click off and everyone on the entire plane would pull out a cigarette and light up. Quite an annoyance that you had to put your cigarette out for ten minutes while the planed lined up for take-off.

Now you can’t find a cigarette machine anywhere. I wonder what happened to them all?

Probably if he were in good shape and could walk that far which he probably couldn’t do it he smoked.
Santa sure knows how to take a break. Light up a Pall Mall and give one to each of the reindeer while you’re at it.

[Images courtesy of Found in Mom’s Basement and Go Retro.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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