In your life if you or your relatives had ever served in any branch of the military in any country or if you knew anyone who had, it would be a safe bet to say that in that top drawer of their dresser you would find a Zippo Lighter engraved with the unit they served in. As I traveled the world I found that Zippo Company also sold lighters in other countries and their militaries too.
My history with Zippo began a few years before I joined the Navy. On the Fourth of July in 1962 my father took me on a harbor sail (Called a turnaround) on Boston Harbor on the USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston as my father was friends with the Admiral in charge of First Naval District, they had served in WW-II together.
When we were back to the pier, we took a ride on the Admiral’s barge to the USS Wasp CV-18 for lunch, and that was the first Zippo lighter in my collection a lighter from a ship that had fought in WW-II. When I went to boot camp in 1964 I gave it to my father as it was not allowed during training.
The collection grew without my knowledge, as I kept giving Zippo’s from every duty station to my father in Boston as he liked the Zippo lighters above all others. As I was sailing the world I was known to stop in watering holes around the globe where you meet servicemen for the US and other nations and share a chilled beverage and swap sea stories.
On the ship the Zippo (Mid 1960’s) sold for $2.00 so I always had a couple in my pocket which I would use to trade other guys for their unit Zippo. All of which ended up at my dads house. This was something I did for my entire Navy career and continued as a merchant seaman.
In 1994 my father passed and I flew home from a Merchant (MSC) ship in Hawaii to attend the funeral. While there my mother pulled me aside and asked what I wanted to do with the large box of mostly brand new Zippo lighters? I had forgotten about them, but there they were, one from every place I was ever stationed and piles of lighters that I’d received in trades over the years. My father hadn’t smoked since the early 70’s but he still loved his Zippo’s. And now they were mine, once more.
At the wake I noticed one of my brothers wearing my Rolex watch. My mother saw my surprise and then remembered the watch belonged to me. I loved fine watches and so did my dad, so we would trade watches for a year or so but always returned the original watch to its owner.
My mother forgot and now she remembered, and told me she would get it back for me. I found out that my brother really thought it was a memento from our dad, and I was not going to spoil that. My mother liked that and I still had a nice Rado watch he had traded to me. Back to the Zippo’s..
I went to Florida to get my CJ-7 Jeep and bring it to San Francisco to ship to the Philippines. While Philippines customs made sure that never happened, but I sent by LBC all my lighters and Navy Memorabilia to my wife in Olongapo City. She kept it for me sealed in the boxes as her presents came in another clearly marked box for just for her and the girls. (Smart Kano)
We lived in two rental houses and the boxes remained sealed until we built our permanent abode on the mountain in Dinalupihan Bataan. In the hall in the new house the “I Love Me” wall was established, a place to display all my Navy Plaques and awards, plus the mounted pictures of every ship I was ever on The I Love Me was is a thing you’ll find in many a military retiree’s house. But all the Zippo’s were still in the box.
When I returned home 7 months later there was a Nara wood display case with a locking glass door with 100 compartments each the size of a Zippo lighter. I was so pleased with her gift that I was silent about the new dining room set with hutch that she had built by the same guy that made my case. I thought to myself; “a very smart woman indeed.”
Now it’s true that not all my lighters fit in the case, but I rotate them every few months even though I’m the only one who’ll ever notice.
My friend has 40 lighters on display in his bar and thought he had the largest collection in the Philippines, until he was at my house at a party. I’d never told him about my collection as I saw no reason why I should bust his bubble, but since that day he’s been trying to buy mine for 8 years now, sorry they’re not for sale. I told my daughter that when I pass to sail with the “Supreme Commander” to contact Zippo in Bradford PA as I know they pay top dollar for collections that are as old as mine. Most if not all of the ships on in lighter collection are decommissioned so it would be next to impossible to find that many still in the box (NEW) lighters.
It’s is an odd item to collect, but if you remember I had never planned to do it. So they will finish out their days on the “I love me” wall because if I know Mayang she’ll never sell them, but I hope she does. I love the smell of naphtha in the morning. Need a light?