Zippo Lighters

Dad was a smoker until he quit cold turkey one New Year’s Eve without telling any of us. We noticed that he was crankier than usual, but he didn’t tell us what he had done for a couple of weeks, “in case I couldn’t do it,” he said later.

One day he came home with a handful of these Zippos with his company logo on them. As a non-smoker and as an appreciator of something special, I never put lighter fluid in mine nor did I ever spin the flint. I don’t recall him carrying one of these special editions.

Zippo lighters worked

I remember well the Zippo lighter he DID carry. There was something simple and satisfying about this simple, but foolproof device. There was the “click” it made when you opened it, and the “clunk” it made when it was closed. Because of the nearly windproof chimney, it was almost impossible to blow the flame out; the proper way to put it out was to close the top, starving the flame of oxygen.

You filled it by putting lighter fluid on cotton batting inside the base. Dad always carried a couple of spare flints back there.

Zip!…It’s Lit!

One spin of the flint stiking was all it generally took to light. I’ll never forget the slight smell of ozone that came from the flint and the smell of the lighter fluid. Looking at the instruction sheet brought back the memory of those zebra-striped Zippo fluid cans. I’m going to have to look under the basement stairs to see if any of the old cans are still there. The fluid, I’m sure, has long since evaporated, but it would be neat to see a can again.

They weren’t kidding about the life-time warranty, either. Something happened to Dad’s lighter – maybe it was the cam on the left that kept the lid securely open or closed that broke – anyway, he sent it in and they replaced the guts of the lighter and returned it with the original case. (You might have to click on the pictures to get the instruction sheets big enough to read.)

Personalize your Zippo

I’m pretty sure Dad’s everyday Zippo was plain, but you COULD personalize it for as little as a buck. I don’t have any idea what the Steinhoff, Kirkwood & Joiner cases cost, or if they might have been a Zippo promotion to encourage him to buy more.

Dad tried some other lighters. I think Ronson made one that had a rounded case. It didn’t work like a Zippo, though, so it didn’t get carried long.

Guys got really attached to their Zippos. That’s hard to believe in this day of throwaway butane jobs (that don’t work as reliably as a Zippo).

Zippo Rule

At the same time he got the SK&J lighter, he got a Zippo Rule with the same logo on it. It looks like a lighter, but the case contains a tape measure.

13 Replies to “Zippo Lighters”

  1. We had Zippo lighters at home but dad had a preferance for stick matches (the strike anywhere style). Dad also used book matches on occasion but seldom. That left the ‘Case Lighters’, as we called them, for me to play with. Cigarette smoking used to be an art form for many around me. Rolling your own, one behind the ear, pack rolled up in your T-Shirt sleeve, flicking ashes into your pants cuff, smoke out your mouth and back into your nose, smoke rings, twirling the lit end into your mouth and blowing smoke, the many ways to strike a match and flip a lighter and so much more. I don’t see this ‘art form’ practiced any more. I tried to smoke but failed misserably. But the smell, feel and sound of the Zippo is still apealing.

  2. The epitome of mastery of Zippo use was to hold the lighter in one hand, thumb on bottom, index and middle finger of the same hand on top of the lighter. Then snap the two top fingers off the hinged top side of the lighter. This move opened the top of the lighter and automatically threw the thumb up the opposite side of the lighter. This places the thumb just above the wheel which, when quickly thumbed downward, would light the Zippo–opened and lit in one move.

    Don’t know that I ever mastered this; however, I recall being in the Pla-Mor Recreation Center (Lee and Irene Akers “pool hall” next door to the Esquire) and marveling at the big boys who could open and light their Zippo with one snap and thumb wheel spin!

  3. AaaaaErrrrr–It could have been snap the top fingers down the NON-hindged side of the lighter, opeing it and catching it–opened–between the four non-thumb fingers. This move also placed the thumb above or on the spark-igniter wheel and one downward flick of the thumb lit the Zippo.

    It was one or the other! I’m SURE of that–I think. Anyway, it was a marvle to behold the big boys doing this.

  4. Ahhh: Revise the second post to say “…catching it-opened–between the four non-thumb fingers AND THE PALM. Adding “and the palm!”

    I’m SURE I have it correct NOW!

  5. I can still smell that lighter fluid. And I do remember the Zippo maneuver tricks. Always fun to watch. I didn’t carry a Zippo. I think that was a “guy” thing. In those days, smoking was not politically incorrect as it is today. I remember most movie stars smoked in those days. It was the male star’s job to romantically light the female star’s cigarette as he gazed into her eyes. Smoking was sexy back then. LOL!

  6. My grandfather Alvin Grossheider was a pipe smoker and carried a Zippo lighter with him everywhere. His method of opening and lighting the lighter was solely centered around artful use of his right thumb up to flick the lid open and then down to flick the thumb wheel to strike the flint.

    He used to amuse us grandkids by blowing smoke into a used McCormick Cinnamon tin, sliding the lid mostly shut and then tapping on the side to make it blow smoke rings.

    When the doctor told him he should quit, he quit cold turkey as well; loaded all the paraphernalia and tobacco into a trash can and out it went! But…he kept the Zippo lighter.

  7. I found a brand new one in my dads chest of drawers. Totally new box and all. It must be at least 50 years old.

    It says USS Little Rock on the side of the lighter underneath a picture of the cruiser.

    Anyway know how much this thing is worth?

  8. My Dad carried a plain Zippo until the day he died. I can always remember him lighting up his Camel cigarettes with it.

  9. If a Zippo was overfilled the excess fluid would seep out and penetrate the pants pocket. It took experience to not overfill so as not to have the red “burn” mark on one’s upper thigh. Saved some explaining to the wife/girlfriend.

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