In 1952 (when I was ten), New Zealanders smoked more cigarettes per person than at any other time in our whole history. Nearly all men smoked and most women. The fact that smoking caused cancer and terrible respiratory diseases like asthma and emphysema was only just becoming widely known.
About the only public places that banned smoking were cinemas. You could smoke nearly everywhere else; at sports games, in bars and restaurants, and in most family homes. There was no such thing as smoke free zones.
You can imagine the stinky smell. Yuck.
I know it’s hard to believe, but, because smoking was everywhere, we didn’t really notice it at the time. It was only years later, when smoking was banned in public places, that non-smokers started to notice the awful smell (and to demand even more smoke free areas). Perhaps surprisingly, many smokers also started to appreciate the benefits.
Now, I’ve got an awful confession to make. When Grandad Dale was ten, he and his friend Robin Hargraves decided they were going to smoke a cigarette. Robin pinched one of his mother’s fags and off we went to smoke it.
But where could we go where we wouldn’t be seen? Well, we had a small shed behind our house which was used for storing hay bales, to feed the cow. So Robin and I went down there and stacked up some of the bales and made a secret cubby hole. Then we crawled into this little space and lit the cigarette and smoked it.
Now, this was probably the second most stupid thing I ever did when I was a kid. Hay bales are super dry and can catch fire really easily. If there’d been even one spark when we lit up and smoked the cigarette, the hay would have caught fire and we would have been trapped inside. Dumb, eh.
And, would you believe it, we didn’t even like the cigarette; it tasted horrible and made us cough like mad. They really do taste awful.
Another thing that was different in those days, was that men and women wore hats much more than they do now. Have a look at this picture of a crowd in Wellington and you’ll see that practically everyone is wearing a hat (and a suit).
We’re much less formal nowadays.