Friday, September 05, 2008

The Mighty Zippo

I grew up around smokers. I was raised by smokers.

I was born in 1955. Everybody smoked. My grandparents smoked. Pregnant women smoked. Doctors smoked. My teachers smoked (the teachers lounge reeked and belched smoke like Cheech and Chongs VW mini-bus). Broadcast news legend Edward R. Murrow chain smoked like a chimney on TV, even as he introduced Public Television on my 7th birthday in 1962.

And the sound track that accompanied all that smoking was the unique sound of the opening, striking, and closing of the Zippo lighter.

It is easy to distinguish between the sound of a Zippo opening and closing and that of a lesser, cheaper lighter. It just doesn't sound the same. (go to the bottom of the page and click on "The sound of a Zippo:" and "The sound of a Rippo:")

Like the "potatopotatopotato" sound of a Harley Davidson...

or the unmistakeble War Bird Growl of a P-51 Mustang firing up it's pistons and taking flight,

it is a uniquely American sound and one that you can immediately recognize, no matter how faint.

I remember my dad's Zippo. It was a company branded lighter. He worked for the Continental Can Company in Coffeyville, Kansas.

His Zippo was engraved with the red-laquered filled logo of the three nested Cs.

Below that was engraved "Continental Can Co. Coffeyville Plant 17".

My dad smoked Camel straights - no filters.

Predictably, that was my first brand as well. I smoked them for years. My pussified frends accused me of smoking them so they couldn't bum from me. Truth was, they just tasted better than filtered cigarettes. But I digress.

I grew up listening to that lighter click open, flint wheel sparking the Ronson lighter-fluid-scented flame to life, and the distictive click of the lid snapping shut to snuff out the fire.

It was ubiquitous.

I quit smoking over two years ago, and that is the only thing I miss. The sound and feel of a Zippo. The ritual of removing it from it's case and unscreweing the spring to change the flint. Refilling the lighter fluid so it's full, but not so full it will leak in your pocket and give you a nasty chemical burn on your thigh.

Ah, good times!

I have another story about my dad's Zippo that I'll save for another time.

But for now, I will just leave you with this AWESOME video of cool Zippo Tricks and a link to this list of tutorial videos so you rebel smokers can learn your own mad Zippo skillz.


Spyder said...

When I was a kid (7 or so) I would sniff my grandfather's lighter. That might explain the lack of many brain cells.

Dexter Colt said...

Never smoked, but I do enjoy the sound of a Zippo. It is a classic. If you can't have Wolverine's might as well at least have a Zippo.

The Beltway B@stard said...

I have junk box with 4 old Zippos of the plain silver variety in it. Left overs - I quit 8 years ago.

Sort of going back to your Jeep post here, but you notice how they all sound the same (Willie's/CJ's/Wrangler models). I always told my wife If someone kidnapped me, blind folded me, and threw me in a Jeep, I'd know it was a Jeep right away.

Midtown Miscreant said...

Ahhh, the zippo, back before the bic, when stealing your lighter wasnt so easy. personally I liked those Ronson lighters, the clear lucite bottom , a tiny pair of dice or a fishing lure floating in naptha. My old man smoked humps with no filter as well. Though they will probably kill me, you cant beat a smoke and a cup of coffee. Good post.

Dan said...

Great post, resurrecting memories of my father I didn't realize I had. Wow.

On a lighter note, last year I was asked to be the chef for a work cook-out. When I sent one of the "organizers" (a word loosely applied in this case) to go buy some lighter fluid, I wound up with a bottle of stuff to fill zippos with.

It's tough to light 20 pounds of charcoal with zippo fluid, but it can be done . . .

Nuke said...

Zippo sounds, the one handed opening, the snap-to-light it... I never regularly smoked (cigars a couple times a year but not in years) but I am still the guy my friends look to when they need a lighter.

Oh, and it only took 1 of those burns for me to learn the lesson about overfilling.