Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cheers... and Cigarettes - Part Three

This is Part Three and the final installment of a short series about growing up around alcohol.

Last Monday I posted about the three main bars in Cruz Bay in the late 1950's; Smitty's, Mooie's, and the Ellington's bar at Gallows Point. I also promised to tell you about how my sister Erva and I came to play with cigarettes.

Among the white people who lived on St. John, my parents were in the minority who had kids. Getting a baby-sitter rarely happened. Most every one understood, if the Denhams were invited, the girls were going to come along. My parents felt if Erva and I weren't invited, then it probably wasn't a party they wanted to go to. The consequences of this attitude was that Erva and I were around a lot of adults.

So it was, when my parents were invited to a wedding reception at Gallows Point, the girls went along. I was around ten. Just about everyone was there, including Ivan (John) Jadan who, in a former life, had been a Russian tenor with the Bolshoi Theater.
Balalaïka "Москва 80"Whenever he showed up at a party he brought his balalaika and sang Russian folk songs.

Well, this time he not only brought his balalaika, he also brought his son, a handsome young man of about 25 or so.  Even I, at ten, thought he was good looking.

Because, as usual, Erva and I were the only kids at the party, Ivan's son decided to help keep us entertained, with my parent's permission of course.

He anchored a paper napkin across the top of glass with a rubber band. On top of the napkin he placed a dime. Then he lit a cigarette for each of us. The game was to see how many holes we could burn into the napkin before the dime fell into glass. So there we were, the three of us perched on bar stools at on end of the bar, playing with cigarettes.

It never occurred to either Erva or I to take a puff when it was way more fun to burn holes in the napkin! I can clearly remember having a grand time watching the ashes collect in the bottom of glass, trying not to be one to cause the dime to fall.

Those were innocent times. I can't imagine parents these days allowing their kids to hang out at a bar and play with cigarettes.

Would you?


  1. OH.MY.GOD. That story is so funny. I snorted tea out my nose. I can see you and Erva at the bar.

    Parents today are so different. I was lucky we had the beach house. Every weekend my brother's friends and my friend's would come down and we'd all get tossed in some form of alcoholic libation. And we were only 16. BUT we were at the beach house with my parents. We couldn't leave. Couldn't drive.

    Nowadays that's considered a crime and my parents would be arrested.

  2. Hahaha! That's so funny! You tell very good stories. I can so see a little you and what I imagine your sister looking like doing that. I can't imagine it had any negative affects on you, right? I don't see the harm in a game like that under adult supervision! But I can imagine most parents freaking out these days...they seem to freak out pretty easily.

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  5. actually, no. :D But I also grew up with relatives who smoked and drank and they didn't think a thing of me being around it. I did try cigarettes a while in college, but my parents didn't smoke. I didn't like the stinky smell, and I ultimately quit that before it became a habit, thank goodness. :o)

    Fun stories, though. I can see this scene so clearly in my mind, Bish~

  6. Whoa!
    My dad had me try one when I was a kid. That cured me forever!

  7. I love it! You played with cigarettes but didn't smoke them!

  8. I had a lot of time with adult where smoking and drinking were just what happened. I've never smoked and my worst vise is good wine. Exposure to bad habits in childhood doesn't necessarily mean as an adult you'll turn to them. I guess we're examples of that. The most important part of your life was that you had loving, caring parents who were there.

    Loved the story, but I knew I would.

  9. One thing hasn't changed - kids love it when an uncle/relative/family friend lets them get away with stuff their parents wouldn't.

    Great story!

  10. It was definitely a different time. I wouldn't let my kids do half the stuff I did as a kid, even though (most) of it had no bad effect on me :-)

  11. Are you kidding? I would so freak out if I caught my kids playing with cigarettes! What a funny story - times really have changed!

  12. It's a shame, because you're right--times have changed and most adults wouldn't allow their kids to play with cigarettes, but it was such a vividly told story, it would make a great bit for a book. I could totally imagine the scene! Maybe something like historical fiction would let you get away with it?

  13. Wow, your childhood was awesome and unique, Bish! No, I wouldn't let me kids play this game -- oh, yes, I would now since they're adults and two of them smoke! but when they were little, no way. Sounds like a fun game for a party - as long as those playing it haven't had too much to drink. Wouldn't want to burn the place down!

  14. The really was a time of innocence. Great story of simpler times.


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