Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis

Teen fun - 60's style

I was chatting with a friend at the pool today. My friend is a 20 year old and he was asking me about what other sports I like. To someone my age (66), my size (fat), this question by itself is the world's greatest complement! But I explained about my COPD and that led to all my years of smoking cigarettes. In his world, smokers are old people like grandparents. It was fun to see his take on it.

And of course it got me - like any old person worth her salt - talking about the olden days.

I grew up surrounded by the smell of tobacco. In the 50's and 60's there were few places in town Winston-Salem where you not smell drying tobacco leaves. And when the wind blew, it was overwhelming. I never thought it was unpleasant, in fact, if I smelled it right now, I'm sure it would instantly bring up thoughts of home and warmth and comfort and wonderful things.

I first started smoking when I was about 14. Most of my friends did, too and none of our parents particularly minded. They minded if we smoked the wrong brand, but not if we smoked cigarettes. RJ Reynolds was a huge economic force in the city and smoking a non RJR cigarette was just rude. Cigarettes were $2.00 a carton and $.20 a pack.

When I was in high school RJR built a fancy dancy new cigarette manufacturing plant just north of town. It was open 24/7 and had huge glass windows all lit up at night. You could drive by in the dark and see them in there making the cigarettes, it was really a sight. They also offered free tours 24/7 and at the end of the tour, you got a free pack of cigarettes.

So, of course, when were were teenagers with nothing to do, we'd pile into somebody's car and drive out to the Whitaker Plant and take the tour.

Tomos, the kid at the pool I was telling this to today, probably believed maybe half of it. The rest was just too far out of his circle of credibility.

But... it's all true.

In fact, I just googled it and Wikipedia told me this:

Built in 1961 at a cost of $32 million ($254 million in 2015 dollars), the Whitaker Park plant had 790,300 square feet of manufacturing space and was considered "the world's largest and most modern cigarette-manufacturing plant". It was announced in May 2010 that cigarette manufacturing would cease at Whitaker Park; by mid-2011, this had been done. Manufacturing formerly performed at the Whitaker Park plant was consolidated in the more-modern Tobaccoville plant. On January 7, 2015, Reynolds announced that Whitaker Park was being donated to Whitaker Park Development Authority Inc., started in April 2011 by Winston-Salem Business Inc., the Winston-Salem Alliance and Wake Forest University.

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