Care for a cigarette?

The client hardly had time to walk into his office before the lawyer picked up a hinged box from his desk, opened it and said, “Care for a cigarette?”

We’ve been watching old TV shows this summer, and one of our favorites is “Perry Mason,” which Jenny records for us every morning from the Hallmark Movie channel.
Perry Mason seems to be smoking a cigarette or offering one to someone else at every plot turn. Sometimes, it’s his detective, Paul Drake, who in one episode is seen with his assistant, smoking in the dark while staking out a suspect’s house.
The bright glow of the cigarettes can be seen prominently, even on the 1950s-quality movie film. 
It’s life from another era, one in which men – and women — wore suits, drove big gas-guzzling cars, and walked around with a cigarette hanging out of one side of their mouths. We quickly recognized that the gas guzzlers were usually Fords or Lincolns, and thought that Ford might have been one of the show’s original sponsors.
Later, it dawned on us that a cigarette company might be a sponsor, too. I looked on the internet and found that the show had a cigarette sponsor during the 1958-59 season, which caused Raymond Burr, who played Mason, to observe, “All of a sudden, the scripts are loaded with smoking.”
The contrast between this late 1950s lifestyle and today’s is striking. There was little negative reaction when the New Albany Board of Aldermen banned smoking in restaurants and other public places.
And more change is on the way. We’ve been hearing about what life is going to be like at the University of Mississippi come January.
No smoking. Anywhere. Not outside classroom buildings. Not in The Grove. Not even in parking lots.
The university police will be authorized to pass out $25 tickets to offenders.
Some university employees have complained about the decision to go smoke-free. Getting 100 percent compliance will be difficult, just as it is with speed laws or anti-texting laws or anything else.
But the university is not the first, not even in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky (in the heart of tobacco country), and my alma mater, Missouri, already have adopted similar policies.
Lifestyles do change over time.
 Fifty years from now, old pictures of students smoking on the Ole Miss campus may seem as out of place as Perry Mason offering a client a cigarette.
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We did take a break Thursday night to attend Broadway 7, The House Is Rockin’, at the Cine Theater. It’s an annual fundraiser for the Magnolia Civic Center.
On our drive home, Jenny and I were marveling that a community our size has a civic center and theater at all, and that we have so many talented voices to bring it to life.
It’s also fun to watch people that you see around town doing their everyday jobs step out of their usual roles to take a star turn in this musical production.
What a good show – and we got home in time to catch a Perry Mason on the DVR.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at