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by William Serad

While no readers responded to my nomination request for membership in the “absolutely different pipe tobacco club” (nor did I shake loose commentary from the Burley boys), I did receive a very nice letter (an actual letter, not electronic communication) from Tom Cody of Vicksburg, Mississippi. His memory was jogged by my mentioning the drugstore blends available to him during the 1960s in Oklahoma.
“In the ’60s, there were two stores in Oklahoma that carried the full range of drugstore blends. These were Katz Drugs, in Oklahoma City, and Oertles (Ert’-lees) in Tulsa. Thanks to Katz and Oertles, I sampled most of the blends, either through purchase or bumming a bowl from a friend. A high school chum smoked Bowl of Roses. Yes, it smelled like roses. My 50-year-old recollection is that the blend contained rose sachet. Is that possible?”
Why yes, Mr. Cody, it is possible. Extracts from types of roses are used in the Lake District concoctions, and oil of rose geranium (which does not smell like roses) is found there and elsewhere. Even today, one can still have something like it in Kentucky Bird from the Scandinavian Tobacco Group. See www.tobaccoreviews.com/blend/1170/scandinavian-tobacco-group-stg-kentucky-bird.
His letter continues: “Blue Boar, Barking Dog, Holiday, India House and Walnut were white-collar tobacco. Prince Albert, Granger, Velvet and Half and Half were for the working man. One would expect to see a tin of Prince Albert in the overalls pocket of a farmer or a railroad man. The tobacco could be smoked in a pipe to free the hands for working, or rolled into a cigarette after lunch. All of the working-man tobaccos were cut for both the pipe and the rolling paper, even the Rough Cut Granger … . The market saturation of Prince Albert [PA] was unrivaled. Any back-road grocery [store] sold PA. The red pop-top tin was useful for storing knick-knacks, such as a Boy Scout emergency fishing kit.”
I never thought about class distinctions in these, but I am well aware of the advertising point of pipe or rolling tobacco. As I have mentioned before, my grandfather smoked Half and Half in a cob, and my uncle rolled it. I have a collection of Prince Albert tins, which I use for small items and admittedly as tobacciana collectibles. I never was a Boy Scout, but they are handy for other things.
“Early in my smoking career, I was told, ‘A Kaywoodie Pipe and Edgeworth tobacco is as good as it gets.’ Gene Hill, a popular outdoor writer of the time, smoked Edgeworth. He referred to the tobacco by brand name in his writing; I’m not sure you can buy that kind of advertising. The Edgeworth Ready Rubbed and the Edgeworth Sliced seemed very different. The original Sliced, which came in the small blue tin, was more heavily cased with molasses. To me, the aroma had an undertone of frying bacon. The Ready Rubbed was of obvious quality, but never made my regular rotation. Edgeworth Sliced, however, did.”
These comments made me run off and have a bowl of Edgeworth Ready Rubbed in a Kaywoodie. Your advice may very well have been correct. Sliced also came in a big, blue container, and none of it is produced now. I believe, and am sure at the end, that Sliced was made in the U.K. They were rather different products, despite the common name. I have often wondered why no manufacturers make a cube-cut Virginia. They are always Burley, sometimes with a little Virginia. Given that flake smokers rub it out, admittedly to varying degrees, before packing, a gravity-feed version would be both appealing and limit the variability of the burn. I have never seen such a thing, but I would love to try a black Virginia cube. Run with it, manufacturers.
“Cherry Blend and Mixture 79 were popular among college sophomores. Neither suited my taste. Sail Green was my sophomore smoke … . In addition to the drugstore merchandise, Ted’s in Oklahoma City, sold imported pipes, tobacco and hand-rolled cigars. Ted’s in Tulsa’s Utica Square is still a haven for pipe smokers. As of my last visit to downtown Oklahoma City, Ed’s has become a cigar stand.
“Gillis Archer opened a pipe store in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in the late ’60s. I have a treasured barrel pipe that I purchased from Gillis soon after he opened the business. Years later, on Mr. Archer’s advice, I smoked a tin of GBD Ebony—very good advice indeed. Pipes and tobaccos contributor Dr. Al Smith told me that Gillis had retired.
“Bob Summers opened Royal Pipes in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1970. Bob was a prince among men. He gave sage advice on pipe smoking, which I follow to this day. Royal Pipes is still operated with loving care by Bob’s son, Jared.
“I will close with some free association: London Dock, Kentucky Club, George Washington, Carter Hall, Apple, Hickory, Rum and Maple, Mapleton, Revelation, Edward G. Robinson.”
Unfortunately, many on that list are discontinued by Middleton, and House of Windsor is no more. Edward G. is, I believe, the last of the list that is still readily available. It is sad to me, but I appreciate you sharing your memories from Oklahoma. It is important to recall the brick-and-mortar stores that launched so many pipe smokers’ journeys, and it is even more important to pay homage to the memories of their dedicated and knowledgeable proprietors. I always like to hear and share trips down a tobacco memory lane. It is important to us as a community.

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Category: Pipefuls, Spring 2015

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