Another year, another liquor referendum

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Hardy Jackson

By Hardy Jackson

From time to time, Alabama towns vote on whether or not to allow liquor to be sold on Sunday.

Honestly, I have no opinion, one way or the other.

But some people do, and because they do, a lot of Alabamians have spent a lot of time and energy prohibiting Sunday liquor, while others have spent a lot of time and energy finding ways to get around the ban.

Used to be, down in Baldwin County, establishments bypassed no-liquor-on-Sunday laws by declaring themselves private clubs then welcoming as a member anyone who might walk or crawl though the door — probably the only private club that would ever let me join. That worked fine until the state Alcoholic Beverage Control folks sent word that they wanted to examine the membership rolls, check the books to see if dues were collected, and all that sorta legal stuff.

Now that promised to be a whole lot of trouble to which the “clubs” didn’t want to go, and for a split second it looked like Sunday sales were done for.

Then someone came up with a bright idea — “let’s put it to a vote.”

Then someone came up with an even brighter idea — “let’s put it to a lot of votes.”

And that’s what they did.

Our legislature, always in favor of democracy (except where calling a constitutional convention is concerned) decided to let every Baldwin County municipality that was inclined and qualified to hold a referendum to hold one, and let voters declare whether they wanted Sunday to be wet or dry. And that’s what they did. And, predictably, the coastal areas where tourism never takes a Sunday off, voted to sell the stuff, while parts of the county where tourists never tread voted no.

Which is why, in this state today, you need a GPS to find liquor or avoid it.

From time-to-time other towns and cities line up to vote.

And when they do, the old, ancient enemies line up to do battle.

While folks like me are pulling up chairs to watch.

Now for those of you who are not sure where you stand on this issue, let me offer a piece of advice, the same advice given to a timid Mississippi legislature back in the early 1950s, when members refused to come to grips with what they called, with a fine feeling for words, “the question.”

Tired of his fellow legislators pussy-footing around, Rep. Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat rose and in 312 famous words brought the matter clearly into focus.

“My friends,” he began.

“I did not intend to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

“If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.”

“But:

“If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in an old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blink, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, that certainly I am for it,”

“This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”

And he didn’t.

I don’t.

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hhjackson43@gmail.com.

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