The Way It Was – The cigar lighter


Pictured above is the cigar lighter from Earl Chiesa’s soda fountain.
(Photo submitted)

Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.

When my wife and I moved to Columbus several years ago, we took along a few mementos of our many years in Marysville. For example, there was one of the iron benches that sat along the courthouse walkway for somewhere around 100 years. There was also one of the newel posts from the railing in the courtroom. The county sold those things when the courthouse was updated a couple times. I think it was in the late 1970s and early ‘80s.
But my favorite Marysville memento is the small wooden box shown here. Made of oak, it stands about 10 inches tall. On its top is a nickel-plated gizmo with a lever that sticks out in front. On the face of the box is a metal plate that reads “Midland ‘Jump Spark’ Cigar Lighter.” When you press down on the lever, a spark jumps across a gap and ignites a flame. The unit was powered by a large cylindrical dry-cell battery. It’s the only battery of its kind that I have ever seen.
The box was given to me by a man named Earl Chiesa, who operated a business at 123 West 5th St. when I was growing up in the 1930s and ‘40s. The business was actually a combination soda fountain, confectionery and cigar store.
As a boy, I enjoyed Earl’s homemade candies, taffy and chocolates, which he made at his brother’s store in Richwood. Or on a cold and snowy winter evening, I might order a cup of Earl’s great hot chocolate, which he served with two cookies. That made the cold walk downtown well worthwhile.
When I was in Earl’s store, I often saw men come in to buy cigars. I think Earl had the best selection of cigars in town. They occupied an entire glass showcase across from his soda fountain. When a customer told him the brand he wanted, Earl reached into the showcase, removed the box and placed it on the counter top. Then the customer took as many cigars as he wanted.
The cigar lighter sat on top of the showcase. Before leaving the store, customers almost always used the lighter, and then took a few puffs. Then they chatted a bit with Earl before leaving. Some of the men, like Earl, were World War I veterans, and they sometimes talked about their war experiences. I enjoyed listening as they talked.
Every now and then, however, the battery inside the box died, and Earl had to get a new one. Because it was an odd size, however, that sometimes took a few days. So Earl put a tin match holder on the counter beside the box. And I watched men light their cigars with those matches, which they ignited by striking them on the side of the box.
I thought it was pretty neat how that cigar lighter was still working to light cigars, even without its battery. And today there are hundreds of scratch marks on the right side of the box. Maybe that is why I am so fond of that old lighter. It brings back some really nice memories.
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