Carry A Nation: Temperance and Terrorism   Leave a comment

Carrie A Nation

I’ve got a very specific vision of the ladies that fought for temperance in our country.  It’s Sergeant Sarah Brown from Guys & Dolls.  Her heart is pure, her motives above reproach, and she just wants to save sinners from themselves.  How could anyone disagree with that?

Jean Simmons played Sergeant Sarah Brown in the 1955 film version of “Guys and Dolls.”

Lyrics by Josie de Guzman:

Follow the fold and stray no more
Stray no more, stray no more.
Put down the bottle and we’ll say no more
Follow, follow, the fold.
Before you take another swallow!
Follow the fold and stray no more
Stray no more, stray no more.

And then I became acquainted with Mrs. Carrie A. Nation.  This bible-toting Jayhawk believed she was under orders from God to go into saloons and bust them up.  Here’s what she said happened to her in June 1899:

The next morning I was awakened by a voice which seemed to me speaking in my heart, these words, “GO TO KIOWA,” and my hands were lifted and thrown down and the words, “I’LL STAND BY YOU.” The words, “Go to Kiowa,” were spoken in a murmuring, musical tone, low and soft, but “I’ll stand by you,” was very clear, positive and emphatic. I was impressed with a great inspiration, the interpretation was very plain, it was this: “Take something in your hands, and throw at these places in Kiowa and smash them.”

So what did she do?  She grabbed a bag of rocks (which she called “smashers”) and went to Kansas saloons, and busted them up.  She was sometimes arrested, sure … and kept going back.  Her husband at that time, Mr. David A. Nation, told her that to maximize damage she should take a hatchet with her.  Her biographer (Kevin McQueen (2001). “Carrie Nation: Militant Prohibitionist”.  McClanahan Publishing House.) reports her response:  “That is the most sensible thing you have said since I married you.”

Two things happened after that momentous conversation:  she always carried a hatchet to her future saloon attacks … and their marriage ended in divorce in 1901.

Carry A. Nation (who adopted that spelling to emphasize the alliteration of her name) wanted her picture taken with a hatchet in her hand, as the above photo shows.  This was one scary lady!  She believed in violent attacks to achieve her goal of ending the influence of liquor in our country.  She believed in her “God-given right” to destroy any private property she chose with her hatchet.  And that was one of the most noted faces of temperance in Kansas.

Mike Rowe has had some dirty jobs, but he’s also a Distinguished Eagle Scout.

How Booze Built America

For another viewpoint on how demon rum affected America, check out the Discovery Channel 3-part series of that name, hosted by Mike Rowe (who’s an Eagle Scout, by the way!).  The series offers some fascinating explanations of the influence of alcohol from our founding fathers to today.  It’s a fun 3 hours.  He suggests a drinking game in one episode, saying some viewers are taking a sip of beer every time they hear “beer” in the show.  Didn’t participate myself, but have fun!

One fun piece of trivia from the show:  John Wilkes Boothe was in a bar prior to his assassination of President Lincoln.  Also in that same bar that night:  the head of Lincoln’s security detail for the evening.

The Drunkards Progress

Here’s a great graphics from the temperance era that traces the life of a person who drinks alcohol … from the first glass to the grave:

Here’s the text that appears beneath each step:
Step 1. A glass with a friend.
Step 2. A glass to keep the cold out.
Step 3. A glass too much.
Step 4. Drunk and riotous.
Step 5. The summit attained. Jolly companions. A confirmed drunkard.
Step 6. Poverty and disease.
Step 7. Forsaken by Friends.
Step 8. Desperation and crime.
Step 9. Death by suicide

Temperance, Booze and Drunkards

There is no doubt that alcohol can destroy lives, as it did destroy Carry A Nation’s first husband (researchers believe her broken heart is ultimately why she became such a passionate campaigner for temperance).

The home I grew up in did have alcohol in it … at the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper.  My dad rarely, rarely drank a beer, but he had a client that gave him a pint of schnapps as a Christmas present for several years.  He accepted the gift … and the bottles ended up under the dirty clothes.  They stayed there, sealed, until I found them as a high school student (OF COURSE) and asked Mom what they were doing there.  I still don’t know why that was the right place to hide store them, but there they were!

Here’s what I believe:

  1. Terrorist acts against saloon owners have no place in our society.
  2. If you are head of security for the President, stay out of the bars if POTUS is going to Ford’s Theatre.
  3. All drinkers do not commit suicide.
  4. When you have kids under the age of 21, booze should be rare in your home.  Hiding it in the dirty clothes hamper is optional, but proven effective.
  5. Under age drinking is, in fact, illegal.  Don’t allow your kids — any kids — to have access to alcohol in your home.  It’s illegal.
  6. If you choose to drink, check out my search for The Perfect Margarita!

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