DAVIS: Timing is everything
Sometimes, it's not what you do, but when you do it that makes all the difference. The evidence to support this statement can be found in history and all around us.
In recent weeks, a movement to take Saline County from dry status to a wet county has been forming. This isn't the first time an effort regarding alcohol in the county has been knocked around and likely won't be let last, regardless of the outcome. If the effort is successful, somewhere down the line of history, an attempt to revert back to dry status will gain momentum.
In 1947, Saline County was a wet county. Beer, wine and liquor was available for sale. In this same year, an effort to turn the county dry was in full force. Advertisements in the Benton Courier clearly indicate that the sides were drawn based on morality on the dry side and revenue on the wet side.
In the July 3 edition, a full-page ad declared "Liquor is a curse! It makes Drunks, Crime, Disease, Suffering, Paupers and Damns Souls!"
The ad put forth the argument that "Legal Liquor Traffic Destroys Women" and that there were "600,000 Women Alcoholics in United States Now!" It continued with "Look out America! Look out Arkansas! Look out Saline County! The booze traffic would destroy every decent thing in American life. EVEN OUR MOST PRECIOUS POSSESSION - WOMANHOOD! If WOMANHOOD should be destroyed, the NATION would be destroyed! Let's stop the forward-smashing march of the booze barons before they destroy us!" The ad went on to support this claim of the destruction of womanhood by quoting an individual by the name of Kathleen Norris, who said "Fifty years ago only the lowest type of woman frequented bars and saloons - today thousands of bars and saloons have sprung into existence, and they are being frequented by women - idle elderly women, young wives and school girls. There is nothing but heartache and tragedy when girls and alcohol are mixed."
But boys and liquor were also a problem. The ad states, "Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, states that during 1945 the largest number of males arrested for all causes were 17 YEARS OLD! THINK OF IT! JUST BOYS! but they are now in the ranks of criminals. And LIQUOR is the most prolific breeder of all sorts of crime."
The ad states that those who vote for liquor would be "The promoters of that racket: those who want to drink liquors; also the bootleggers and other lawless persons. Bootleggers vote wet! Make no mistake about that! Thieves, thugs, prostitutes, murderers, and all other criminally-minded persons will vote for liquors. All who are for Satan and his entire program will vote for liquors."
Those who vote against liquor were described as "Christian Ministers and Christian Laymen and women - all who care for righteousness than for revenue! All who are against Satan and his entire program! All who are for homes and churches and youth and good schools! All who are for Christ and His entire program!"
A group called the Saline County Legal Control Committee lead the charge to keep Saline County wet. In 1937, county residents had voted to abolish the sale of whiskey. Beer and wine were still allowed.
The primary argument put forth by this committee is that changing to a dry county would do nothing to stop the consumption of alcohol, but would bring bootleggers back to the forefront. In an ad two pages from the dry ad, the committee made its case.
"Over 10 years ago the same group who are now attempting to vote Beer and Wine out of your County voted out the LEGAL SALE of whiskey in your county. Can the Drys' show you with all the figures and statistics they will quote you, or in any other way, that there has not been as much whiskey BOUGHT and DRANK in Saline County since they voted it out as during the time it was sold LEGALLY by LICENSED STORES. They tell you the law enforcement officers will take care of that end if you will vote it out. Do they mean by that statement your law enforcement officers have been derelict in their duties during the past 10 years?" Later in the ad an appeal to rational thought is made. "Let's be sensible about this question! None of us wish to insult your intelligence by telling you that any form of alcohol used to excess is not harmful to body, mind, soul, family and community. Overindulgence in eating causes more misery for more people in our country today than overindulgence in alcohol. Ask your family physician. Because you exercise your right as a free citizen in a democracy to take a sociable drink, in moderation, you are not a scoundrel or sinner as the Drys' would tell you. Use to excess is the only sin, in drinking."
One week later, a vote was held. The Drys' won. Saline County became a fully dry county.
With the dry versus wet debate heating up again, what approach will each side take? Is there a familiar tune being played again?