Drinking, royalty and religion


Several news stories caught my attention in the last few weeks.

First, recently much has been made of the fact that 100 years ago last Friday, Jan. 17 Prohibition became the law of the land. This followed the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1918 followed in October 1919 by the passage of the Volstead Act that implemented Prohibition.

Pressure for prohibition had been growing since the mid-19th century in no small part because of an influx of immigrants from Ireland, Poland and Italy that were seen as whisky, beer and wine swilling Catholic nations. It was these recent immigrants that were portrayed as drinking away their pay before even reaching home and then beating their wives and abusing their children.

While these things also occurred among the upper classes, they did not feel that the law applied to them and went on drinking from the large stocks of spirits purchased before Prohibition.

My Polish grandfather who, I remember enjoyed an occasional beer, was a grain inspector and grader at grain elevators in the Port of Milwaukee. According to my late mother he made extra money during the Depression by setting up a home brewery in the basement and then utilizing his children to make deliveries to his customers with their wagons or sleds as the season dictated. Neither my mother nor her brothers and sisters ever showed any negative impact from this criminal activity I’m happy to report.

The only true “black sheep” in the family prohibition saga was my paternal grandmother’s father and hence one of my great-grandfathers, who happened to be of English ancestry and owned a hotel in eastern New York. It is a part of family lore that there was a secret panel, behind what had been the hotels bar in pre-prohibition days, that concealed a vast assortment of spirits. He could not have been too wise about keeping this fact secret because he managed to be arrested three times for the illegal sale and possession of alcohol. The story goes that some family members were hoping he would be arrested and convicted a fourth time and be declared a “habitual” criminal and spend his remaining days incarcerated.

So much for family solidarity.

Anyway, last Friday I made myself a Bourbon Manhattan and raised a toast to the beginning of Prohibition but more importantly to its end on Dec. 5, 1933.

Another news story that struck me was the announcement by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, officially the Duke and Duchess of Sussex that they wished to withdraw from their official duties and go out and earn a living.

Her Majesty the Queen was said to have been taken aback by this but in the end seemed to take a “kids will be kids” attitude toward the whole affair and stated that she was sympathetic to them. They will now be free to lead their lives free of royal duties but without their royal titles. Will they now be just Mr. and Mrs. Harry Windsor? There is currently speculation that they might make Canada a part-time home in order to take advantage of Tim Hortons offer of free coffee for life. They could do worse.

Then there is the story of the dueling Popes at the Vatican. They didn’t face off in St. Peters Square but there was a controversy over priestly celibacy. Pope Francis has proposed that to relieve a severe priest shortage in Amazonia that married men be ordained priests to serve in that area where Catholics regularly go for months without seeing a priest. Sounds like sections of our own diocese.

This has been a contentious issue for conservative elements in the church and became more so when Pope Emeritus Benedict VI coauthored a book stating that celibacy is a gift to the church. Now the word is that Pope Benedict is attempting to have his name removed from the book to defuse the situation. We’ll have to see what happens.

Next, here is my take on the stories about impeachment and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The whole impeachment issue festered because Pelosi, concerned about her ability to retain leadership is fearful of AOC and the “crew” and other Democratic socialists. Pelosi is characterized by her allies as a tough and wily leader but I’m not so sure she is anymore if she really ever was.

In my opinion Democrat Sam Rayburn of Texas who spent a total of 17 years as Speaker of the House during the 1940s, ‘5’s and ’60s would have called AOC and the “crew” into his private office, offered each a tumbler of fine bourbon, and suggested that it would be in their best interest and that of the Democratic Party to get in line with the House leadership’s programs. They all probably would have nodded yes because Rayburn was the type of Speaker who when his fellow Democrats in the House decided to buy him a new Buick in the 1950s, fifty minority Republicans also made contributions toward the car which probably best illustrates both the loyalty and the fear Speaker Rayburn engendered in House members and Nancy doesn’t.

Finally, I am awarding my new “Tone Deafness Award” to whomever sent out the email to all employees at Lakeshore Hospital, including those laid off or soon to be laid off, about the Aug. 3 Brooks-TLC golf tournament. This year I think it would be appropriate to hold the event on a miniature golf course, but that’s just my opinion.

Thomas Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com


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