Tobacco and cotton were the big cash crops in the south. When wrinkle-free polyester became the craze folks stopped wearing cotton clothes. But the good ol’ boys continued smoking, probably because, unlike cotton, tobacco was addictive.

Restaurants and bars all allowed smoking but churches were different. I don’t recall seeing ash trays in the fellowship hall or Sunday school classes at church, certainly never any in the sanctuary. I do recall smelling cigarette smoke in the ladies’ bathroom from time to time. There may have been a reason for that.

Here is a difference between the north and south you may not have been aware of. In the north smoking was considered harmful to the body and therefore a sin. Even in 1962 my government teacher played us a song about smoking. I have no idea who wrote or sang this and neither does google.

Lung, lung, lung, oh lung,

Lung, lung, lung, oh lung,

Lung, lung, lung, oh lung,

Lung cancer may be slowly killing you.

God help us to stop,

God help us to stop,

God help us to stop,

Lung cancer may be slowly killing you.

In the south tobacco was the neighbor’s income, therefore, good for you and not a sin. (Kind of like slavery used to be.)

So when we walked up to the entrance of our prim and proper and socially upperclass Presbyterian church there was a lovely, artistic cement urn full of clean white sand and white cigarette butts placed unobtrusively to the left of the double doored entrance.

If you didn’t go to Sunday school at 9 am, but arrived a bit early for the worship service, say 9:45, a small crowd of men stood to the left of the door chatting and discreetly smoking with their backs facing the sidewalk. If they saw you they nodded politely, “Hey, Paula, How you doin’?” Then they turned back to the cement urn as if it were a urinol. You have to understand, it was a guy thing.

images-4 One Sunday a new woman showed up in Sunday school. She was a little rough around the edges, wearing old scruffy pants and a sweater. What, not in a dress? Her hair was poorly cut and disheveled with streaks of grey. This woman did not fit the norm in our upper crust church family. She didn’t even fit at all. After class I think I was the only one who introduced myself, although, in hindsight, a couple of other ladies told me a bit about her. It was not good news.

She seemed in a hurry to get out the door and asked me to follow her so we could talk. She was fumbling in her purse as she all but ran outside the door. “I gotta smoke,” she mumbled, “before the service starts.” There we stood in the middle of all the male smokers. They smiled politely, shuffled sideways in a Texas two-step, only we were in South Carolina, stumped out their butts and left us.

For a few more Sundays there was one butt in the white sand with a ring of red lipstick on it. then the woman disappeared. I can only pray she found a church that opened its doors to all us sinners. Jesus said, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and pow’r.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

I will arise and go to Jesus,

He will embrace me in His arms;

In the arms of my dear Savior,

Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

Joseph Hart, 1759


4 thoughts on “Good Ol’ Boys Club

  1. Yes, tobacco, the cash crop of the south, But, in the early days, before many could afford cigars, or later, cigarettes, tobacco was chewed by most of the workers. That meant tobacco juice saliva! One can not swallow tobacco juice. When you speak with tobacco juice in your mouth, suddenly you have a southern accent! You have to try it to believe. The children learned to speak, listening to the adults, therefore, they too had the accent. Nothing shameful, just American history.

  2. Paula,

    “Nothing is shameful, just American history” How jaded.

    I read a book recently that told of American/Indian relationships. It only told of Trail of Tears kind of stories, ignoring mission work done from Governor Bradford and the Winslow family to John Eliot, to David Brainerd, to Sam Worcester, Major Ridge, Elias Boudenot, The Cherokee Phoenix and many more Christ honoring stories. What is shameful is omitting of Christ’s work in God’s Commonwealth from the progress of history. That’s the shame. When I approached the author, she said she could have it changed, print on demand allows that. I bought another book and no change, just more of the same.

    We omit the tales like Metlacatla where Rev. Duncan beat the Hudson’s Bay Company at its own game, freeing a whole tribe from Mercantile exploitation. That’s the shame

    Working on a Canadian Penticton Reserve we knew well the Native saying “it was a pretty good trade, whites and Indians, we swapped you a lung for a liver.” That’s the truth.

    Whites only settled in our valley in 1907. An elder told me “People say they want the old ways. My grandmother told me how it was before White people came. Our young men raided the Black Feet in the summer, and the Shushwap raided the Okanagans (the local tribe). My grannie spent summers hiding near MacIntire’s Bluff, from the Shushwap who raided us capturing women and children. I don’t want those old ways”

    Stopping that slave trade brings shame? Wow! Guess you won’t find that in Progressive histories. Maybe that is part of the problem.

    When we bought our farm it had a 7 acre tobacco base. That meant we could grow up to 7 A.and sell it to the Man for a very good profit.
    Pat & I decided not to do it. Helping people meet Jesus that way seemed contradictory to us. “They that hate my ways love death”

    For our King,

    Dave Paul

  3. Dave, you make excellent points, and I hope to write about some of them. It is a tough balancing act to show love and acceptance of the person while rejecting the harmful behavior.

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