This I Believe

Vernon - Kent, Washington
Entered on April 19, 2007
Age Group: 65+


In 1944-46 while serving in the United States Army Air Corps in 1944-6, I learned two lessons: to smoke and to type.

I joined the Corps at age 17. I spent a year in Army Specialized Training at Virginia Teach, scene of the April 16, 2007 Massacre of Staff and Students. A non-smoker, I bought Post cut-rate cigarettes for my Chemistry Professor. I made a “B” in his course.

At the end of the academic year I was inducted into Active Duty in the Corps. Enticed by my best friend—“It will make you a better man,”—I began smoking Pell Mell’s. I enjoyed the camaraderie and the sophistication: lighting with a lighter; releasing a long-held puff in smoke rings; tossing my head back on a drag, like young “guys and gals” with long hair; occasionally using an ivory cigarette holder, supposedly to reduce nicotine intake, but actually to show off.

I took typing classes at Scott Field, IL. I punched keys fast, furious and accurate. My high grades qualified me to be a Teletype Operator Instructor. Separated from the Air Corps in ’46, I used my discharge pay to buy a Remington Portable. I was later given an Underwood Upright. I eventually typed my 365-pages Edinburgh, Scotland University Ph. D. thesis on it. What a chore! Never again!

At age twenty two—to my Mother’s delight—I bade Pell Mell’s good-bye. Not because of Mother or because I chose to. I wanted to study for Church Ministry. The Pittsburgh Presbyterian Seminary frowned on students’ smoking.

Smoking soon began to exact family tolls. My Father died at age 57 of lung cancer; our non-smoking Mother lived to be 92. Other smoking members of the family developed cigarette-related illnesses. For an eighty-years’ old man, I remain tolerably healthy.

I am unctuously grateful that I learned to type. Without typing, I could not have had fifty-three years of being a “Reverend Doctor”, a part-time University Professor, or a Pastor, ministering in the US, Scotland, New Zealand, Bali-Indonesia, Bogota’-Colombia, San Juan Puerto Rico, and last year, in Malawi-Africa.

I have never been tempted to buy cheap tobacco when working or touring abroad. Or Pell Mell’s at home. I will have to confess, however—“before God and these witness”—that I have traveled with cartons of American cigarettes to bribe “foreign” tour guides, taxi drivers and souvenir hawkers.

I believe that one reason for my enjoyment of typing—and my abandonment of smoking—is that I have been able to serve God better, and Christ’s church longer. One of my most satisfying social ministries is verbally attacking young smokers outside Supermarkets, for: 1. smoking; 2. disobeying Washington State law on No-Smoking Zones. I begin, “You ought to have been with my Father when he died of lung cancer!” Interest perks. I collect an audience. So far no-one has smashed me in the face! In fact, the most frequent response is: “You know, Sir? I have been trying to quit for months. But it’s so hard. Maybe I can try harder.” I sympathize, and then relate my Father’s death knell. The “congregation” walks away like a dog with its tail between its legs. The preached-to are probably still smoking!

I am aware that neither church typing, nor not-smoking—only grace will open the Gates of the Mansion I want to live in when I die. But think of the money I have saved, the years of jogging and skiing I have enjoyed, how much better our car and house smell, and how much longer Marjorie and I have lived. And I am not addicted to a drag-along oxygen tank.

Don’t smoke; type! You can do one without the other. This I believe.