It’s interesting how humor has changed over the years.

I listened to an old Bob Hope monologue on Youtube, and the audience roared at jokes that seemed very lame to me, and at others that I didn’t understand at all (I imagine his audience would not have appreciated Larry the Cable Guy.)

Likewise, I have a 1927 college humor magazine from an obscure Midwestern university, and many of the jokes leave me scratching my head.  Maybe somebody can explain these to me:

Virg: “What do you think of Dutch?” Bud: “If only I could love like that squirt!”

Biology Prof: “Define duodenum.”  Victim: “Trade name of an overall cloth.”

“So the absent-minded Frosh opened his door and jumped out the transom.”


Others are actually sort of funny:

Her: “Will you ever stop loving me?”  Him: “Well, I have an 8 o’clock class …”

The Siwasher, 1927

More interesting than the archaic jokes is the extremely pro-cigarette content.  I grew up in an era when smoking was very normal, but everybody knew it was bad for you.  Was there every really a time when people believed it was healthy?

Apparently people did in 1927, when this particular magazine was published.  It is full of information about how cigarettes are great for runner’s endurance, sore throats, singing voices, and – ironically – coughs:

Modern mother, opening her cigarette case: “Isn’t it time for baby’s cigarette?  I am so glad my brand is grade A.  Just think, he’s gained an octave this past week!”

Or this poem:


“Jack be nimble, get up and – Git!  If you want to be nimble, smoke a good cigarette.  Lady, dear lady, how do you stay fair?  I smoke cigarettes, they’re great for the hair!  Taffy was a Yankee, Taffy was no goat, Taffy stole a cigarette to heal his aching throat.”

The legal age for buying cigarettes has increased to 21 recently, but things were different in “my day.” When I was 8 years old in 1982, my parents and grandparents gave up smoking for good.  It may have been partly for health, but the main reason was that the cost of Lark cigarettes had increased to 79 cents a pack, which was outrageous.

Before that, my mother would send me down to Nolan’s corner store with a note and some money to buy her cigarettes.  I enjoyed these trips because I was allowed to use the change to buy candy.  Even without a mother’s note, I could have bought cigarettes at any time from the vending machines that used to be outside stores.

Another fun time was going to Beano with my father at the Knights of Columbus hall.  He would call the numbers while I played pool in the back room and drank from glass bottles of Coke.

But it would take days to get the smell of smoke out of my clothes and hair.  The whole hall would be filled with elderly people smoking cigarettes, and the big air filter chugging away on the ceiling didn’t help much.  It’s hard to believe there was a time when people smoked in public buildings, airplanes, elevators, or anywhere else they felt like it, with no regard to other people’s health.

I remember doing some electrical work at an old man’s house with my father, and watching the gentleman alternate between an oxygen mask in his left hand, and a cigarette in his right hand.

Obviously the addictive and health destroying properties of cigarettes had to come to a head eventually.  Individuals started suing cigarette companies in the 1950s, and the big Tobacco Master Settlement of 1998 cost the four big manufacturers at least $205 billion.  Various states started enacting so-called “sin taxes” on cigarettes, which pushed the price of a pack up over $10 in places like New York.  Smoking disappeared from television shows, and laws were passed to prohibit smoking in restaurants and even bars.

As a result, you just don’t see that many people smoking anymore.  Thank goodness for that.  Personally, I never understood the point in starting a dangerous, expensive habit that you would spend the rest of your life trying to quit.

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