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Neighbor to Neighbor: Bellhop Johnny now answers different calls

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At the risk of dating myself (which I often do), I have begun to wonder how many other people remember ads that featured a bellhop named Johnny.

Johnny seemed to be one of those ageless people who was always nattily dressed in neat, black trousers, a short, red jacket with gold braid, wearing a small, round hat and carrying, a silver tray that carried an important note. He seemed, for a while, to appear everywhere - on radio, in magazine s, and on T.V. His distinctive voice was loud and clear, always with the same message, “Call for Philip Morris.” Philip Morris evidently received a lot of calls, because we heard Johnny for a good portion of my lifetime. The real purpose of the ad was, of course, to have the audience call for Philip Morris cigarettes, and of course many did.

Those were the days when tobacco was perceived as a diversion for the sophisticates, or for those whose worries seemed less under a private smoke screen.

One spring evening, I was taught another use for tobacco. Our friend, Dolores Jones, who lived across the street, came over to see our vegetable garden as I was removing some of the little critters that seemed to be trying to devastate our crops. She told me her Grandpa Jones had a system much better than hand-picking bugs. I was interested.

Across the street we marched, heading for the backyard. There was Grandpa Jones with a small hand sprayer, misting his plants. His “secret formula” was tobacco water. “What in the world is tobacco water?” I asked him. He told me to take our Dad’s spent cigarettes, remove the outer paper (there were no filters in those days), put the shredded tobacco in a container and add water to soak.

I followed the directions, and by design or accident, the bugs seemed to disappear.

That, and the fact that as a child of the Great Depression I have always been (shall we say) conservative about spending money, I never joined many of my friends when they began to smoke. As a matter of fact, since their smoking created breathing problems for me, I began a very active anti-smoking campaign at my workplace in the early 1950s. With support from my supervisor friend, I bought books about ways to stop smoking to lend to interested employees, and ran programs from the American Cancer Society which included very graphic movies and pamphlets showing pictures of damaged lungs and the like. But in spite of all that, many people chose to continue smoking.

Many who thought themselves invincible found that was not the case. We mourned for them, but we could not then, nor can we now, blame tobacco companies totally. People choose sometimes to self-destruct in a variety of ways.

When I began hearing that Philip Morris Companies Inc. had diversified to include Kraft Foods, I wrote to tell them The Cornucopia Society was grateful to Kraft Foods for their food donations to our pantry.

Much to my surprise, they responded, not only with a gracious and friendly letter, but followed with a generous donation for the continued work of The Cornucopia's Food Pantry. For those who may still be unfamiliar with the Food Pantry, at 136-10 Brookville Blvd. (the Rosedale Sports Association building), our work has been seriously hampered by a fire some time ago and subsequent storm damage to the repairs that were in progress. The heavy winter snows followed by spring downpours brought tile outside inside, so to speak, and made proper repair work impossible to accomplish as soon as we would have liked.

We want to be able to serve the public well, whether in our present location or elsewhere. In the meantime, we can assure all concerned that the Philip Morris donation, and all others we have received, will be put to very good use, and we send our heartfelt thanks.

Incidentally, we LOVE the name “Morris”!

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