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‘Smokin’ at the bus stop...
Don’t Make Me
Some of my best memories come from when I used to stand at the street corner and wait for the school bus with other neighbor kids.
First, we set our lunch boxes on the sidewalk to hold our place in line. We’d peek inside to see which food was worth trading. A Twinkie, for example, won over celery sticks stuffed with peanut butter - but came pretty darn close to homemade chocolate chip cookies.
But frosty mornings were our favorite, hands-down. That’s when we stood on the curb and smoked.
I was about eight or nine when I first started smoking on those cold days. The big sixth graders taught me the ropes of inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. This created more smoke, I learned, which created a bigger shock value to those driving by. Shock value was crucial.
We usually timed it so that when we heard the bus’s diesel engine at the top of the hill, we’d just about be at the tip of our cigarettes.
Those long pieces of white, hard candy, with pink bubble gum at the end, were worth every penny of our allowance - a pack could last us a few frosty mornings.
Maggie Dotson has similar bus stop memories from her hometown of Alexandria, Ind.
“We not only smoked candy cigarettes, but chewy cigars, too,” said Dotson. “And the funny thing is - none of us grew up as smokers!”
I found a package of candy cigarettes while in Japan a few years’ back. Did I buy them? You bet I did; and shared them - along with my bus stop memories - with my kids.
The cold weather in Indiana not only provided for great smoking experiences, but also for winter play.
“There were eight of us kids at our bus stop,” said Dotson’s sister, Mary Patterson. “We used to play slip and slide on the ice, and throw snowballs at each other.”
But bus stop memories didn’t always involve cold weather.
Maile Gatchell warmly recalled sneaking make-up out of the house in sixth grade.
"The other girls and I would sit on the curb at the bus stop and put on mascara and lipstick. But we made sure to remove it before we came home from school," Gatchell laughed.
And finally, there’s my good friend, Brandy, who tried to get truck drivers to honk by using a little fist action.
“We got points if they’d honk and then point to us,” she laughed.
Lunches, candy cigarettes, snowballs, make-up and honking contests - all great material that makes for some pretty fun bus stop memories.
Judy Halone (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a member of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.