Kents and the creek: I learn to smoke #AtoZChallenge

K is for Kents and the creek: I learn to smoke. Eleventh of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

In the summer when school was out, I spent much more time on my block. And by the early 1960s, many of the Baby Boom kids on the street were now teens like me — trying to model adult behaviors and figure out where we fit in.

At some point in our early teens, one of the cool, grown-up things we all tried was smoking cigarettes down by the creek at the end of our street. And this opened up a whole new world of deception and subterfuge to outwit our unsuspecting parents.
Cigarette. Photo: Pixabay

Where to get cigarettes?

On the block, we were already veterans of cooperative endeavors from our childhood Halloween Mayhem campaigns. To try smoking as teens, we also had to put our heads together to figure out where and how to get cigarettes.

A few of the parents were smokers, so it was easy enough for some of the neighborhood teens to pilfer one or two cigarettes from a pack here and there — which we would pass around, each of us taking a puff (but nobody inhaling).

My dad, who was a Kent smoker, was trying to quit — so all he had was one reserve “temptation” pack in the house. I pilfered one or two cigarettes from that — but then I had to stop or he’d figure it out.

Drafting a younger sibling

None of this pilfering resulted in an adequate supply — so a new plan was hatched. One of the younger siblings would be drafted to make a trip to the store for a whole pack — someone old enough to walk up to Main Street alone, but young enough that the local store owner could see they were clearly not going to smoke.

Next was forging a note from the kid’s mother saying the cigarettes were for her — then pooling our allowance and babysitting money to pay for the smokes. Amazingly, this plan worked! And more than once, if I remember correctly.

Avoiding the parents

The creek was an ideal, secluded place for smoking. It was surrounded by woods at the end of the street — and our parents never went there. But we still lived in fear of being caught.

To protect my teen co-conspirators and avoid my parents’ prying eyes, I even invented a secret symbol in my diary to indicate when I had smoked — so they wouldn’t catch on if they happened to read it.

Visiting Brixius Creek with my brother Mark on a trip to Endwell, N.Y. (2007). I have fond memories of going down to the creek — where we teens could get away from our folks, try something new and exercise a bit of independence as we grew toward adulthood. Photo by Mark Charboneau

One teen got caught

But not everyone was good at subterfuge — and one of the funniest smoking episodes involved a teen girl up the block.

One winter — when it was too cold for the creek — she was periodically smoking in secret up in her room, then dropping the butts out the window into the snow.

Then spring came, the snow melted and her dad went berserk when he found the pile of butts under her window. Yikes! That was the talk of the street for weeks.

The creek: our teen refuge

Fortunately, although I enjoyed the intrigue of sneaking around, I wasn’t too crazy about smoking and never took it up.

But I still have fond memories of going down to the creek — where we teens could get away from our folks, try something new and exercise a bit of independence as we grew toward adulthood.

Up next,  L is for Line dancing and Long distance friendships. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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24 thoughts on “Kents and the creek: I learn to smoke #AtoZChallenge”

  1. Oh Molly. The memories! I had forgotten Kent cigarettes. I think maybe my mother smoked them sometimes. I don’t know. I think my parents were mostly Benson and Hedges smokers. I was desperate to learn to smoke because I thought I would need it for my brilliant acting career. Ha Ha. But I just couldn’t really get into it. I think I smoked from about 20-24 but it was really OPs or other people’s cigarettes. I was always appalled by how expensive they were. Alpines were very cool for girls in my day. We thought the menthol would cover up the disgusting taste. Barp! I tried Gauloise because I thought they looked so sophisticated but they were truly gross. And then I started rolling my own kidding myself that I looked like a hippy. Honestly. What a twit!

    1. My goodness — I’d forgotten about Benson and Hedges. And then there were More cigarettes, long and slim — and designed to get young women hooked on smoking. Spoiler alert: I did have on other brush with smoking in college. It lasted about a month — until I answered the phone one morning with my raspy smoker’s voice and the caller said, “Good morning, Sir. Can I speak to Linda?” Sir?? That ended smoking for me.

  2. Molly,

    I fell into the early adolescent smoking phase. My parents knew I smoke. They tried to sway me from doing it saying “Do as I say, not as I do” which did very little to change my mind. I kept that nasty habit for a couple of years before giving it up. I’m very grateful that I abandoned smoking. Life dishes us a lot of hard blows to our health, why complicated things more,right? I’m glad the nicotine bug didn’t have its head buried into you.

    Check out today’s Looney Tunes’ Art Sketch of Kiss Me Cat when y’all get a chance. Happy A2Zing, folks!

  3. I was not really one to sneak around . My brother was a little more adventurous on that front. I was always up for covering for him though but fortunately never got asked to buy cigarettes. Usually, it was just sneaking him back in the house so my parents wouldn’t catch him. Weekends In Maine

    1. Our poor parents! No matter what rules they lay down, children and teens are very creative at getting around them — just like you and your brother. And on our block, with 50-odd children, the parents were seriously outnumbered.

  4. I was also in the sneak smokers club. I didn’t smoke so much but I was a procurer for girls who were boarders at my school and not able to go out to the shops. The school had a flat open roof where the boarders escaped to smoke. Surely the nuns knew what went on but the smokers didn’t seem to get busted.

  5. What a wily lot your crowd were. You sure went to a lot of trouble to achieve your goals. Probably lucky that it never “took” for you as it’s such a hard habit to break. I never liked it myself luckily. I’d have been the girl who got busted.

    1. Yes, our block was an endless learning experience during my childhood/teens — and our endless plotting and planning is one of my fondest memories. We’ve had a couple of block get togethers in recent years and although we are all now retired, we still regale one another with stories of our Malverne Road antics.

  6. I wasn’t a sneak smoker but my husband was. And he wasn’t even a teen yet! No creek by his home in Yonkers, and he got caught by his grandfather. Or should I say, he actually went up to his grandfather (yes, he was that young and naive!) and asked Grandpa to light the cigarette. After all, didn’t Grandpa smoke, too? Grandpa thoughtfully provided a light-and made him smoke the whole thing. Yes, he never smoked a cigarette again. I was reading this and so relieved at the end that you didn’t take up the habit.

    1. Wow, that was a tough lesson for your husband. I had a similar experience with beer. I’d nag and nag my folks to try it, and they finally gave in and let me have a sip. Yuck! I was well into college before I could tolerate the taste again.

  7. I wonder if the “Note from Mom Approach” might still work today? I think not ;-)))

    Your memories are such a great example of how things become interesting if they’re forbidden. Imagine if your parents *made* you smoke. You would have complained about how yucky it was.

  8. I found your blog via Deborah Weber. I love this post. My mother smoked Kents so when I had the chance to try smoking that was the brand I tried. My friends and I usually bought our packs from a vending machine in the lobby of a local restaurant. No one cared how old we were, so no real subterfuge. Thanks for the smiles thinking back on those days.

    1. Wow, I had forgotten about those vending machines! Alas, in our small town we didn’t have those — so we had to resort to the local 5 and 10 Cent Store or the corner supermarket. Kudos to you all for finding a technological way of procuring your smokes.

    1. Yes, we do. And thanks for the comment about the creek photo. Even as adults, my brother and I HAD to go down there to snap some photos — because he and his crowd spent time at the creek as well.

  9. OMG, this brings back way too many memories…even from stealing the cigarettes . One time in the seventh grade me and a girlfriend thought we were so cool sitting out on the roof of the apartment building my parents rented. We were smoking and laughing and giggling and never knew that the neighbor a ways down the street was watching and taking it all in to share with my father. The all not knowing parents always knew everything. It was like they had eyes everywhere. My favorite add was the Marlboro Man with the cowboy hat. He was just so cool. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day.

    1. I agree with you, our parents probably knew more than we realized. Although I clearly had my suspicions — hence the code in my diary to indicate when I smoked.

  10. I remember that photo, or one similar. How strange it is now to see it again. I know I sound like a goodie two shoes, but I wasn’t. Somehow I never got caught up trying smoking, though I remember most of my friends being caught at some time. Another great post of memories

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