Vesta Matches

Years ago many things were very different than they are today. One simple item that quickly jumps to mind and that’s matches. One very popular make of the time, was manufactured at a factory in Dunedin situated at Forbury Corner. They were the Wax Vesta, and their main component was made from a wax taper, and this alone, made them one of a best sellers, particularly with the ‘Roll Your Own Brigade’. As soon as they had rolled their cigarette and lit up, they then waxed the tip of the cigarette with the still burning wax match. By this action it ensured that the tissue paper was waxed, and it meant that it didn’t stick to their lips. I don’t know why they suddenly sold up the business and closed it down, as it was very popular item. Perhaps it was the action of an competitor.

Many smokers rolled their own, mainly because of the high price of ‘tailor made’ so it was cheaper to roll your own. The skill required to roll your own was something most, soon mastered. This technique has now been passed down now to the hemp or marijuana smokers. I’ve never had that much to do with drug smokers, but from what I’ve observed on TV. Marijuana when rolled into a ‘joint’ seems to consist of a very dry loose type of material, and the contents it seems would fall out if the ends were not twisted to contain it. Maybe I’m old fogey, but to the best of my knowledge I have never yet even smelt a joint, or if I have, I’m unable to identify it as such. However I have observed it growing in a neighbours garden.

I have A private opinion too, that when Basil Spence the English Architect responsible for the design of the Bee Hive design for parliament. And when asked to come up with a concept design, he was playing with a box of Bryant and May matches, which features as it’s logo a Bee Hive, and he just happened to look down. Anyway that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The roll your own brigade had a wealth of gadgets produced over time to assist in the production of their cigarettes. During the War when I picked up the smoking habit, I wasn’t much interested in rolling cigarettes as I could buy packs of 20 cigarettes for only 5 cents a pack. The tobacconist shops, a rare item today. but yes we had tobacconist shops back then, and they also sold a wealth of material relating to the habit of smoking. One gadget was like a pen that broke, open to take the loose tobacco and filter if required. The tissue paper was like a sleeve that slid over making a perfect cigarette. Another I remember was like a roller blind. Just perfect if you were even a little inept. One other observation was that the sale of tobacco always seemed to be coupled with Hairdressers, and Barbers. Getting a haircut could be a prolonged affair with the barber stopping the haircutting every so often, to attend to his cigarette sales.

I never mastered the cowboy trick of striking a match on the backside of my jeans. That was until I got to America and discovered that their matches had a special ignition tip. However the height of cowboy achievement, was to roll a cigarette from a bag of Bull Durham which was held in your teeth. While this operation took place mounted on his horse (only 5 Cents a bag, tissues included) all this was carried out with only one hand.

I was born too late to experience Snuff. Possibly some speciality shops still sold it, but I never found it, or tried it. One tobacco habit that has persisted even to this day and that’s chewing tobacco. You won’t get lung cancer from this habit, but I wouldn’t rule out the damage it could do to your mouth and throat. Possibly it’s affiliation with baseball which all the players have adopted.

Chewing tobacco or a wad, was still practised widely when I was a boy, and there was permanent evidence of this when travelling by rail, especially in smoking carriages. Several Brass or copper Spittoons were fitted flush to the floor. Of course there were always spittoons available in Bars and Billiard Rooms.

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