Tag Archives: temperance

A Sober Agreement

A Contract for Sobriety?

A Contract for Sobriety?

“He lived to a good old age, three score and ten.  He was an honest man and a good citizen.  May the sod rest lightly upon him.”  So was the blessing of an old friend on hearing of the death of James William “Gee” Pool in 1907.

A member of one of the oldest families of Metcalfe (formerly Barren) County, Kentucky, Gee wore several hats during his life, one of them being, as we have seen, that of a hotel-keeper in Horse Cave.  In addition to having a wide circle of lady friends (one of whom referred to her rivals as his “sugar plums”), in his youth Gee appears to have enjoyed raising a glass or two with his cousin and contemporary, John I. Pool.

Feigning regret at such indulgence (and possibly under the influence at the time), the two entered into an agreement.  “It is highly necessary that we should curtail the use of ardent spirits,” read their contract.  Therefore, under penalty of one gallon of “good rye whisky,” they covenanted “not to get drunk but three times in the next twelve months,” said times being July 4, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

But there was a mile-wide loophole in the contract.  Given the obvious benefit of spirits to “our health, morals & good name,” the cousins also agreed to “get gentlemanly tight on all Election days, horse races, shows, Temperance celebrations and on all irreligious and religious occasions”. . . and, for good measure, on January 8, February 19 and March 4, dates having a significance known only to these two drinking buddies.

Gee and John Pool’s “contract” is part of the Howard and Anne Doll Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more of our collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Keep Bowling Green Dry!

The "drys" added a moral component to their campaign against alcohol sales.

The “drys” added a moral component to their campaign against alcohol sales.

On May 9, 1960 a group of concerned citizens and clergymen, both white and African-American, organized the Warren County Anti-Liquor Association.  Their aim was to fight efforts to legalize the sale of alcohol in Bowling Green, thereby preserving the outcome of a 1957 local option election in which both the city and county had gone “dry.”

In their intense campaign to influence the vote in the upcoming September election, the Association clashed not only with pro-legalization forces (“wets”) but with the Park City Daily News over publicity tactics.  The Association submitted an ad to the Daily News announcing its intention to print the names of citizens who had signed petitions calling for the new vote, but the paper refused to publish it.  While the petitions themselves were public records, the editors argued, the Association’s action constituted intimidation and would expose the paper to lawsuits for invasion of privacy.

Unbowed, the Association heaped disdain on the attempts of its opponents to drape themselves in the mantle of “law and order.”  Both factions despised bootleggers, “whiskey houses” and other manifestations of the illegal liquor trade, but the “wets,” who called themselves the Citizens Committee for Law and Order, favored undermining criminal profits by regulating and taxing legal sales, while the “drys” insisted on enforcement of current laws to keep all sales illegal.  The rhetoric became heated as the Association accused the Citizens Committee of “fraud and deception” and even called for the indictment of its members.  “Don’t be Hoodwinked,” warned its ads, predicting runaway corruption and immorality if Bowling Green went “legal.”

Pro-liquor legalization forces sought to eliminate both bootlegging and prohibition.

Pro-liquor legalization forces sought to eliminate both bootlegging and prohibition.

The election of September 24, however, saw the “wets” prevail by a 2,750-vote margin, decisively ending Bowling Green’s last experiment with prohibition.  “We threw everything we had at them,” a “dry” spokesman told the Daily News the next day, “but it was not enough.”

Minutes, correspondence and other records of the Warren County Anti-Liquor Association and the 1960 local option election are part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For other collections on prohibition and temperance, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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