Growing up with a newspaper man, I knew what a newspaper smelled like. Not the paper itself, but the building and the folks that worked there. There was a distinct smell of paper of ink and an oily smell from the printing press.
Daddy smelled that way when he came home from the newspaper. He wasn’t a writer, he was the production manager. His position in a relatively large home-owned daily newspaper allowed me to not only learn how the paper was built and printed each day, but to watch how the technology progressed through the years.
Many newspapers are now dying or cutting way back, giving way to the electronic age and the internet. I’m not quite sure what the internet smells like, but I can tell you it doesn’t smell like the newspaper.
Some scientists say that our sense of smell and its direct connection to the brain holds memories better than our other senses. I understand this. It was the smell of Daddy coming home.
There were two distinct smells I will always remember – Daddy leaving for work and Daddy coming home.
When Daddy left in the morning, he smelled like Aqua Velva. When I’m in the drugstore or other stores that carry men’s smelly stuff, I will sneak over to the “Smell Good” aisle and open a bottle of Aqua Velva to remember.
As the commercial always claimed, “There’s just something about an Aqua Velva man.” Baseball great, Pete Rose and even Clayton Moore, “The Lone Ranger,” pushed the manly smell of Aqua Velva.
They say Aqua Velva smells “oaky and mossy” after it has been on you awhile. I agree with this I think, I just know that it smells like “Daddy coming home.”
When Aqua Velva was first introduced in the 1920’s, it was an alcohol-based mouthwash. A few years later, they just pushed it as an aftershave lotion. I’m not sure if the formula changed, but as good as Aqua Velva smells – I’m not going to put it in my mouth.
After a long Labor Day weekend, I was sitting in my chair smelling up the den.
“What’s that smell?” Everyone in my house wanted to know.
The den didn’t smell like Aqua Velva, that’s for sure.
The smell was a combination of Bengay, Icy Hot and Witch Hazel.
I had rubbed the Bengay and the Icy Hot all over my right arm, shoulder, ankles and legs. I had soaked a towel in Witch Hazel and had it wrapped around my neck.
There are warning labels on Bengay that say too much can kill you. I’m pretty sure I was teetering on overdose. However, I will note that the burning sensation and the Menthol smell had either removed my pain or replaced it.
The smell was the smell of success and the smell of hard work and ingenuity.
Sitting in my official “Daddy chair,” smelling up the house, I was feeling a little like Spartacus or maybe more like Jim Fowler.
You remember Jim Fowler; he was Marlin Perkins sidekick on Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom.” Marlin would always stay in the jeep, helicopter or on a mountaintop and commentate on how, “Jim was doing a fine job.”
It was always Jim “doing the job,” and Marlin commentating from a safe distance.
Jim had to wrestle alligators, pull lion tails, get unraveled from Boa constrictors, ride rhinoceroses and other exciting things that would almost get him killed. Don’t you remember the time Jim jumped from the helicopter onto the elk in the snow? The elk drug Jim for about a mile through the snow.
My weekend had been spent wrestling with a John Deere self-propelled push mower. I had yanked the cord a few hundred times, almost got blown up checking the spark plug and had to put it in a submission hold in mid-air to get the oil and bad gas out of it.
There is nothing like working on your own lawn mower for an hour or two, changing the oil, the gas, the sparkplug, etc. and finding the strength to pull the cord “one more time.”
After all that changing and cleaning, she fired right up on the first pull. I still had to cut the grass; it was my son’s birthday, so I gave him the day off.
After I was finished, I looked up into the trees, on top of the house and even behind the bushes.
Marlin Perkins was not there to tell the world what a fine job I had done.
I woke up from my nap in my Daddy chair, gagging on the towel I had soaked in Witch Hazel.
Witch Hazel is good stuff. My Papa (grandfather) sprayed Lysol on everything; I just rub Witch Hazel on it. It doesn’t smell as good as Aqua Velva, but it smells better than Lysol.
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