Oct 01 2009
By John Altman
When monumental events occur, exemplified by such incidents as when President John Kennedy was shot or when the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing at that time. Not as dramatic or as important in the scheme of things, but another monumental occurrence in retrospect was my very first cigar.It ranks up there in my life with my sixth birthday party; I thought all the celebration was about my birthday — well, not really; it happened on VE Day 1945, the German surrender.
My very first cigar happened by happenstance. It happened to be the premium Cuban Monte Cristo. The same cigar that I later learned that Fidel Castro had been seen smoking at numerous news events. Circa 1961, the Russians and the East Germans started building the Berlin Wall. Those series of events became known at that time as The Berlin Crisis. We remember the wall being torn down in 1989. But, the wall was built at that time and Kennedy nationalized the Texas National Guard as well as other reserve units. This event happened in October of that year and the Guard was mobilized and assigned to Fort Polk, La. for the next year. I was going to college at the time and realized that I would not be able to finish the semester, which I had just begun. When they asked for volunteers to go earlier than our division in order to re-open Fort Polk, I went primarily because they promised that the volunteers would be able to have their cars on the post.
One Friday evening, we were stocking a PX or commissary and it was late – 8:00 or 9:00 and the officer in charge said if we finished the detail tonight, we could have the weekend off. It was finished about 10:00 PM or 11:00 PM. We had not eaten. The commander said to open the canned meat — Vienna sausage, etc. And have some soft drinks. He opened up a box of Cuban Monte Christo Cigars, which had just been placed on the embargo list, conveying that we would be unable to buy these cigars once they had been sold out. The shipment had been received before the embargo. He passed out cigars to our detail and we all smoked these cigars; the Havana Monte Christo Cigars … the very first cigar I ever smoked.
Thanks, John. Take note: John is spelling Monte Christo the way Cuban boxes were printed. If you would like to share a cigar moment with everyone, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org