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As the ears hear what the ears hear, the nose knows what the nose knows

By DON CANNEY - Telegraph Columnist | Nov 5, 2022

Don Canney

Just as we are pleasantly surprised when a radio station plays a certain tune that puts us back in time to an event that happened over the course of our lives, certain aromas, or fragrances, both good and not so good, can have much of the same effect.

Tunes by Carol King, James Taylor, Cream, Vanilla Fudge, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Who, The Commodores, et al, bring me back to high school and college days, when these art-ists were just starting out and it was OK to do some of the crazy things we did as kids but wouldn’t dream of doing today.

Similarly, certain scents can trigger memories of days gone by.

Oddly enough, visiting a hotel pool, particularly an indoor pool, with the wafting scent of chlorine (which is not a favorite of mine) triggers a memory of my first ride on Disney’s Pirates of the Carib-bean, where chlorine is needed to ensure the cleanliness of any water ride.

Driving by a horse farm places me on my first visit to the Anhaeuser Busch hamlet in Merrimack, visiting the gentle giants when they were housed at that facility.

The aroma of a certain bakery product in the oven can often bring back memories for any of us of our moms’ or grandmother’s cooking. Apple pies, cookies, gingerbread men, or cakes are some-thing that can always trigger a memory. The scent of fresh bread baking also brings me back to visits to the old Nashua bakeries of yesterday, particularly the Lithuanian bakery on Scripture Street near what was once St. Casmir Church.

The smell of coffee brewing often makes me think of mom and dad’s favorite brand gurgling in the old, dented, aluminum percolator sitting atop the stove, long before the Keurig was even a dream. (There was a 1962 hit called The Percolator Twist which mimicked a percolator banging out a tune.)

The scent of fried food, particularly seafood, typically puts me at the former Meadows on Route 111 in Hudson, a favorite seafood haunt for many in the Nashua area. They were a classic example of “selling the sizzle” and not the steak. Just driving by made you yearn for seafood.

Any pot roast, particularly lamb, or garlic scented food brings me back to Liamos’ Market on Pearl Street, where we’d often see sawdust spread across the floor as we entered the store. I never fig-ured out why, perhaps for winter slip-proof safety or to make sweeping less dusty? I can remember a certain local watering hole where empty peanut shells would be strewn across the floor.

The 60’s and 70’s was the era of colognes for men. Gone were the days when a pleasant scent was just for the ladies and the only place a guy could come out smelling good was a barber shop.

Remember Hai Karate, whose now sexist commercials showed men karate chopping ladies off their bodies and whose package included instructions for self-defense? Or Jade East? What about English Leather (all my men wear English Leather, or they wear nothing at all)? Brut? Or, British Sterling, which originally could only be purchased in fine jewelry stores. Cologne, in jewelry stores?

And of course, almost any major brand cologne manufacturer pushed their version of musk. Musk was the universal cologne of the time.

Musk itself has quite a history. It is obtained from the musk pod, a preputial gland in a pouch, or sac, under the skin of the abdomen of the male musk deer. It is also dried and used to make medicine. Medicinally, musk is used for stroke, coma, nervousness, seizures, heart and circulation problems, tumors, and injuries. In foods, musk is used as a flavoring. I never knew deer had so much impact on our lives.

Ladies back then opted for such scents as Obsession, Wind Song, Tigress, Charlie, Opium, or any of the shop at home Avon brands. Remember the ding-dong of a doorbell and the slogan, “Avon call-ing?”

It seems like we take for granted that our olfactory nerves may have a lot more control over us than we think.

Don Canney is a freelance writer and professional voice artist. He was born and raised in downtown Nashua with great interest in Nashua history circa 1950-1970. He now resides in Litchfield.


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