October 07, 2022

Got a Match? No, You Can't Have One

Danger! These are unlicensed matches!

The second chilly day row, and again I built a fire in the wood-burner, striking a match on the flagstones where it sits and touch the flame to a little pile of twigs and newspaper.

Striking a match. A "strike-anywhere" match, a.k.a. kitchen match. Tried to buy some lately?

They have been going away. Maybe you can blame "Brussels," in other words, the European Union, which outlawed "strike-anywhere" matches — as opposed to the "safety" strike-on-box/book type — effective May 31, 2018. (Some people claim that they started disappearing earlier than that.)

That should not affect North America, but you know the story: big companies often stop making products if they lose part of a market. So if little Hans and Francesca must be protected against strike-anywhere matches, so must we.

Last winter I went into a King Soopers (supermarket chain owned by Kroger) looking for strike-anywhere matches, which I use mainly for the wood stove and secondarily as a survival tool, keeping a few stashed in every backpack, etc. 

They were not there in the picnic and barbequeing stuff, where I had always found them.

I asked a clerk. "Oh, we don't carry those anymore." America's largest supermarket owner is saying no more kitchen matches? The only strike-anywhere matches were the extremely long, decorative, and expensive ones that some peope use to light fireplaces, charcoal grills, etc.

I immediately went online and bought several years' supply. Here is a website devoted to them — that's what happens when something becomes a niche market, I suppose. They are "dangerous."

This website discusses strike-anywhere matches, "safety" matches, and how to waterproof the former. to make "storm matches."

Matches in general are disappearing from popular culture. Back when people smoked in bars, when those people wanted to light up, they might ask the bartender for a light, and he woud pull a book of paper matches (printed with the bar's name, of course) out from under the bar and set it by their drink. 

Restaurants and cafes had bowls of free matchbooks by the cash register — when was the last time you saw some of those? They just quietly went away.

People used to collect them. An uncle of mine had a wall in one room covered with matchbooks that he collected, and he was not the only such interior decorator. 

Minnesota newspaper writer James Lileks, a big fan of mid-20th century pop culture, has a huge online matchbook museum. It's indexed, with photos and commentaries.

So between the demise of public smoking and some EU bureaucrat deciding citizens can't be trusted, matches are turning into this niche market, and pretty soon you will have to go to an outdoor-speciality store to find them?

 


1 comment:

Ron said...

Sad to see them going away. Before the much more convenient BBQ lighters were available, it was a common thing to strike a match on top of the burner of the Coleman stove.

The linked website says the best way to dispose unwanted matches is to burn them in a campfire, but not all at once - that's an excellent warning (although we would never attempt something like that! ;-) ).