Wonder of fifth sense

Our sense of smell is closely linked to memory, and smell is highly emotive, it says in “Psychology and Smell — Fifth Sense.”

I submit that my sense of smell was pretty well developed in the first five years of my life when I lived on York Avenue in good old Warren. For the most part, I’ll stick to the more pleasant smells or aromas — with a few exceptions.

One of my earlier memories is of crawling down the steps backwards in my footed sleepers to the kitchen, where drip grind coffee was being made in the two-tiered coffee pot.

Dad would be rushing breakfast by pouring his coffee onto his saucer to cool it, and Mom would have lighted the oven (with a match) to make me what she called toast and milk — which was a concoction of toast with cinnamon and butter floated in a dish of milk and heated in the oven. The aroma of that combination was a real comforting treat, although Mom usually served it only when my sister or I had colds.

On cold mornings after eating my toast and milk, I would nestle with the cat in a blanket under the four legs of the kitchen stove and oven. It was the warmest place in the house, and the cat would snuggle up close, purring and breathing her milk breath on me. I was too young to have to rush off to school or work, so I could stay there a while after Dad and Sis had to be on their way.

Dad’s cigarette odor wasn’t nearly as pleasant as our baby sitter Maxine’s dad’s pipe. He kept his tobacco in a pouch with a slice of apple in it. It smelled so fresh and sweet and the smoke from that pipe was nearly as good. He made bubbles out of the side of his mouth when he exhaled.

After I played all day with my pal forever, Mary Joyce, Dad would come home from work, hang up his coat and try to relax in his easy chair. He would attempt to read the Tribune, but I had to interrupt him, crawling under the paper to confront him. It seemed he always had a dark blue pin-striped suit with a vest and a pocket watch on a chain going from one watch pocket to the other. I would play with the watch.

He smelled of bus garage, cigarettes and a bit of sweat. You don’t think that was pleasant? It’s firmly filed in my memory bank as one of the best smells in all the world.

On warm Saturday nights, after Sis and my baths, we would pile into the car in our jammies to go downtown to get the Sunday edition of the Pittsburgh Sun Telly (Telegraph). There was no Sunday Trib back then. Wafting through the car was the pungent smell of printers’ ink and fresh newspaper.

We would stop at Isaly’s Dairy at the corner of Todd and West Market to get a skyscraper ice cream cone. My favorite flavor was brown, with pink being second. I hadn’t yet mastered terms like chocolate and strawberry. The smell of freshly-scooped ice cream on a crisp cone was delicious.

Sometimes, after the melting ice cream would trickle to my elbow, Mom may have had second thoughts about giving us a bath before we got our ice cream.

This ends part one of this column about the sense of smell and how I developed mine in my first five years. I’ll share more of these memories in part 2 on Friday, May 17.

Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at columns@tribtoday.com

COMMENTS