Life in Alaska – Hal’s Cigar – Sept., 1940

Dan in white jacket in Alaska

Wed. Sept. 18


Said Rag Weed to Golden Rod tough

As they spoke of hay fever and stuff

“Aw!, Cut out your goddam breezin’.

A.D. is hardly sneezin’.

Your pollen ain’t quite up to ‘snuff’”.

“Today”, as is so tritely reiterated on such frequent vacation, “I am a man!” The episode, as you may have already guessed, involves the delirious past-time vulgarly referred to as “smoking a cigar”. There are divers cigars. There are Havana fillers. There are good five cents cigars. There are better 10 cent cigars. There are Corona Corona’s. There are Blackstones. There are little cigars. There are big cigars. And there are ROSSIs! Rossi EE. . From Italy. They are long and skinny. A black stogie effect. I bought two from “The Greek”. He has a Delicatessen on Fourth Avenue in Anchorage, but that is a minor detail. Here is how it happened:

Yesterday morning Bud Johnston, transitman, came to work smoking a cigar… nothing unusual, you understand, just smoking an ordinary cigar. We were all in Hal Reherd’s Hearse, which he has converted into a ‘bus for the survey crews. “Swanny” Swanson and I are Hal’s chainman. Fred and Orme are Bud Johnston’s chainman. We all ride in together in the converted hearse. Bud was smoking a cigar.

“Say, Hal”, I ventured, “why don’t you smoke cigars like Bud does? We can’t have that crew any better than we are!” (There is quite a rivalry between the two crews, each trying to out-do the other) “Well!”, replied Hal. “It is up to the chainmen to keep the transitman in cigars!”

“Did you hear that, men?”, said Bud to his chainmen. “It is up to you to bring me cigars.”

“Tomorrow”, said Hal, warming to his subject, “tomorrow, Dan, it is your turn to bring the cigar. Next day, Swanny’s turn.”


Faced by a situation that might grow to undesirable proportions, I resolved to put a stop to it early. Last night I went to the Greek on Fourth Avenue. “Have you any strong cigars?”, I asked.

He smiled. “I have some cigars that will knock you out”, he replied. He walked to the end of the counter. “These are imported from Italy. If you smoke them on an empty stomach you will pass out. They are like liquor”.

“Not me!”, I assured him. “They are not for me! I want them for a practical joke. How much are they?”

“Five cents.”

“Give me two of them.”

I paid him a dime and left. This morning I gave one to Hal, very publicly, to ensure his having to smoke it. He offered no objections. He lit it, and, so help me, he smoked on that long crooked skinny black cigar until almost noon time! Swanny and I giggled at first. Thought it would get him soon. Then we began to wonder. He seemed to be enjoying it. I pulled out the other cigar and looked at it. Smelled it. Nothing particularly terrifying there! “Do you want half of it?” I asked Swanny.

“Sure.” I opened my pocket knife and cut it in two. “Have you a match?”

We worked on our sections for a while, and after several matches had been applied, succeeded in getting underway.


In five minutes Swanny’s half had disappeared. “Have you given up?” I asked.

“Yeah”, he answered soberly.

I took another puff, and spit for the 15th time. Then I quietly extinguished the cigar. Only about half an inch had been consumed, but a lot of smoke had resulted. We looked with respect at Hal who was chewing the end of his much-reduced cigar.


Tomorrow it is Swanny’s turn. He says he is going to look for a Fourth of July sparkler and insert it secretly in a cigar. We hope it will work. It is our last chance.


Enclosed are four self-explanatory photos. 10 o’clock PM. Bed time.



Tomorrow and Friday, I’ll continue with letters written by Dan to family in Trumbull.

On Saturday and Sunday, Special Pictures.

On Monday, I’ll begin letters written in 1942 as the War comes to Trumbull.

Judy Guion




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