Monday, January 19, 2009


As a summer job when I was 14 and 15 years old, I worked for the Cullman Brothers picking tobacco. Cullman Brothers (aka Culbro) was renowned for the shade tobacco primarily grown in the Farmington river valley which included my home town of Simsbury, Connecticut. The shade tobacco was grown under a cloth in large fields. After the tobacco was grown it was stored and cured in large barns and then used for wrapping cigars for brands such as Phillies and Dutch Masters.I had heard that Dr. Martin Luther King picked tobacco for Culbro when he was a boy. The pay wasn't bad for a 14 year back then ($1.25 per hour).

One day we were suckering tobacco in one of the fields. Suckering tobacco involves taking off the small offshoots that grow off of the main stalk of the shade tobacco so that the broad leaves of the tobacco plant can grow bigger and wider for use as cigar wrappers and prevent some of the plant growth from going to the offshoots (suckers). We were instructed on the proper way to "sucker" and started working in the fields.

As we were suckering the tobacco plants, the general manager Barney Dudak came by to see how we were doing. One kid didn't follow the "suckering" instructions and instead of taking off the small suckers from the plant; this kid was tearing off the main tobacco leaves starting at the top of the plant. Barney noticed this kid and said something like "Goldang kid broke five plants in a row. Fire him".

That kid sucked at suckering.