A strange memory link happened today involving smoking, and the former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan, and one of the most painful moments of my teen years.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
My calling ... Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in the newspapery 1940 film, His Girl Friday. Thanks to USA Today for the shot.
Back in my cadet/junior reporter days, smoking was the badge of a real man, as Hollywood – the big screen - showed.

If what I saw on a cinema screen could be adapted to 18-year-old me, it certainly was.

Clothes, hair-style, the way we reporter's talked (as Hollywood dictated), and as much as any of it, smoking.

As a young man, Kofi Annan witnessed the smoking embarrassment when an employee entered the office of his very strict father.

Madly keen

The worker was smoking. Seeing the employer’s expression, the clerk tried to hide his cigarette in a pocket … and his trousers began smouldering.

In my encounter with a generation clash over young men smoking, this madly keen young reporter stood in his new boss’s office.

What should a reporter wear, how should he act? Back then, Hollywood set the standards.

I must wear a suit, with the shirt collar undone and the knot of the tie down a few inches, just like in the movies.

And there I was in the office for a briefing as a new recruit to the Taranaki Daily News in God’s own. I’d just finished the most boring two years of my life in the reading room of the Otago Daily Times, and - at last! – I had emerged as a reporter, and inspired very much by heroes in Hollywood films.

A sudden silence

I was more than excited at that first news meeting, but baffled by the sudden silence that fell on the room as managing editor, D F C Saxton arrived. We stood in silence and waited while he looked as if he smelt a rotting mouse.

An appallingly long hush continued and gradually the awareness swamped me: this enormously proud reporter was that decomposing rodent.

Eventually the fellow adopting a growing sneer announced, ‘Rodgers, I do not approve of junior reporters smoking in my office.’

The smashing of a wonderful dream – at least for a few days. And yet for the years I worked for that dreadful attempted Daily Telegraph-copy, he maintained his intense loathing, which his attractive secretary adopted, too.

What a pleasure to resign when I won a reporter’s role – no junior this time – and a much bigger salary on a national newspaper, not a provincial rag.

The wording of my letter of resignation certainly required the strictest discipline, which fortunately emerged with some compliment or other about the training enjoyed on that fine, er, newspaper.

Thanks very much for visiting the mostly Tuesday and Thursday blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, which are introduced each time on Facebook Facebook dot com/Sailingtopurgatory and on Blogger,

Delancey Place: Kofi Annan
Movies aout journalists and newspapers
Wikipedia: Taranaki Daily News

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The blogs for Sailing to Purgatory are introduced on Facebook and Blogger.