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Social History in a Childhood Collection 


A Start in Wartime

 

In my youthful years in Whitstable(1945-53), almost everyone of my age group had collections. Common ones included postage stamps, dinky toys, cigarette cards and matchbox labels - all of which were costly.

 

  

Along with many others, I decided  to collect cigarette packets. I defined these as "push to open" cardboard containers normally holding 10 or 20 cigarettes. The beauty of such a collection was that no money was needed. 

There were many brands of cigarettes and the manufacturers changed the colour and/or design of their packets every few years. With so many smokers throwing their "empties" away, there were plenty of places to find them.

Though rarely adding to it after after 1953, I retained my collection for the memories it evokes, the hours of my time it represents and, to a certain extent, the thrill of the hunt.  I have recently transferred it from "Scrap Book" storage to pages of plastic pockets since its condition was deteriorating.

  

A Sharp Eye.... and Sources

  

Collecting required keen eyes, fast eye hand co-ordination (if other collectors were in the vicinity) and the knowledge of where "the little gold mines" were to be found. 

My gold mines were the pavements and verges of the Coastal Road (aka The Thanet Way), railway embankments and the piles of mixed rubbish the WUDC road sweepers established throughout the town. 

More sanitary sources were friends that preferred unusual brands and tobacconists who often had older packets squirreled away in the back of the shop.

A surprise source for me was the "under stage" storage in All Saints Church Hall. It yielded some 1930's and WW2 packets (Major Drapkins "Band Master" and "The Greys".... Carreras "Club' and "Black Cat".... and a WW2 Churchmans "Tenner" packet containing 16 cigarettes). Another older brand ( Ogdens "Teal") was acquired when the Spencer family left the "Halt Stores" near the South Street railway crossing. .... 

 

 

My next door neighbour in South Street (Ethel Maxted) smoked perfumed cigarettes and so I acquired the packets for "Spanish Shawl" and "Lucky Dreams". A friend of my grandparents preferred the rather posh "Whitmore and Bayley" brand.  

  

 

Oval Cigarettes

 

Besides the well known "Three Castles", oval cigarettes included the lesser known "Spinet" and "Sullivan Powell" brands....

 

  

Cigarette Sizes

 

Cigarette sizes ranged from "small" through "regular", "standard".... and "large..... to the very large "Royalty".... to the "cor blimey mate" large of "Joy Stick"..... 

 

  

Post War Changes

  

Packets were drab affairs during WW2 but brightened up in the post war period with gold colour being added to many packages and some brands having a whole new design such as Hills "Sunripe"....

 

   

This period also saw the introduction of many 'cheap" brands such as "Turf", "Plaza", "Bar One", "Double Ace", "Grand Turque" and "Fleet Wing" to name just a few.....  

  

  

Selling Lines.. and Catchphrases

  

Many brands had a "selling line".... such as Kensita's K4 "and four for your friends"..... and Murrati's "as smoked by Royalty and the Nobility" which together with De Reszke's "the aristocrat of cigarettes" wanted to distinguish their cigarettes from mere fags. Meanwhile, the Irish "Sweet Afton" brand even included a verse from Robbie Burns - "Flow Gently Sweet Afton"

  

  

Handling Inflation...

 

Inflation didn't escape notice as I have a Dobie's "Four Square" packet upon which the original 2 shillings and 11 pence price is crossed out and replaced by 3 shillings....

 

 

Cigarettes.... for Health!

 

I have photos of the two or possibly three herbal packets from my collection....

 

 

The Spring Box packet appears to have some original "dirt pile" on it..... so I would suspect it came from a dustman's "gold mine". Notice the quote "Harmless to the throat" at the bottom of the packet - a far cry from today's dire messages. From this quote, I assume that these were also herbal cigarettes. 

Fumora cigarettes (claimed to be "for Asthma, Catarrh and bronchitis") were even stocked by local chemists. I never saw a Nebo packet in any chemists shop but I'm rather intrigued by the content menu and what combination of English and Foreign substances provided that soothing effect. Are they possibly illegal these days! 

  

Other Samples...

  

I have also included a photo of Passing Clouds which were, (and I think still are), oval shaped. In saying that, I was perhaps wrong in identifying Three Castles as being so in my article last week.

  

 

According to my father, the Barneys packet was a cigarette of icon stature in the 1930's but really hard to come by when I was collecting.

Finally, as a piece of local trivia, I have included a picture of an Allsop and Wagner packet which appears to have had the majority of its outlets in Kent including Canterbury. I wonder if this tobacconist chain still exists.

I hope that some old timers may be able to confirm The "Ideal Barneys" icon status. 

 

A Whole Packet of Pleasure

  

My collection gives me pleasure from the memories it brings back and the retrospective information I failed to gather at the time. I hope it will do the same for some of Simply Whitstable's 'visitors'. 

  

Cheers 

Bill Dancer
Canada

 

 

The Asthma Cigarettes
A Postscript by Brian Smith

 

Bill Dancer certainly has what I can only guess to be a valuable collection of cigarette packets. 

During wartime, we used to collect Rose Hips & sell them to a chemist (name withheld!) in Oxford St. Later, we used the cash to buy what we knew as 'Asthma cigarettes'. Usually purchased loose, our 'earnings' were occasionally enough to buy a whole packet. I think packs of 5 & 10 were available. I wonder if other readers did the same?

  

Brian Smith
Hoppers Crossing
Victoria
Australia

 

 

MANY THANKS TO BILL AND BRIAN FOR TAKING US DOWN MEMORY LANE