In the late thirties, The Lucky Strike Hit Parade, featuring the top ten song hits of the week, was a wildly popular network radio program among teenagers. No surprise—Lucky Strike also became the popular brand among the gang of smokers around Washington High. Smoking was the cool thing to do. Sound familiar?
I tried it, did it, dropped it. Didn’t like the taste and didn’t like the smoke.
A few years later in the South Pacific, it was a different story. I became hooked on the habit and I smoked heavily for the next 20 years.
One late night in the sixties, after a poker game where I stupidly drank too much and smoked too much and lost too much, I threw away my crumpled pack of Lucky Strikes. And I haven’t smoked a cigarette since.
Unlike cigarettes, drugs were something we seldom even thought about in high school. There must have been some involvement with drugs among youth on the margins at that time. There must have been. We were simply not aware of it. Now and then we heard rumors about opium dens in Chinatown. But among the guys I knew, the closest we ever came to drugs was sneaking away one afternoon to see the lurid film, Reefer Madness.
In no way did we face the astonishingly pervasive presence of drugs that exists in American society today.
Pete Zanetos was one hard-working Greek.
Pete had The Oregonian route next to mine. He never stopped hustling. His day started before dawn with the paper route. After school and some evenings, too, he worked in the steamy kitchen of his family’s Greek restaurant on Southeast Grand Avenue. With any spare time, he practiced on his horn. And maybe did a little homework. Then, Friday and Saturday nights, he came alive, He played first trumpet in the “Babe” Binford band, the hottest swing band going around Portland in the late thirties.
Pete’s old-world father wanted him to be the first in the family to attend college.
Pete’s own personal goal, lie often told me, was to land a job with, one of the big time dance bands. He never quite achieved his goal, although he did get a chance to sit in with the Benny Carter band during a three-night engagement at the Jantzen Beach ballroom. A few of us turned out with dates to see Pete up on the stand that weekend, blowing his horn. It was said he could make the angels sing.