Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Tavern Story

A tavern, a bar, an inn, a lodge, a lounge, a pub, a saloon, a watering hole, a alehouse, a barroom, a hostel, a roadhouse, a speakeasy, a suds house, a tap room, a beer-joint, a drinkery, a gin room, honky tonk, a public house, the 19th hole, or a dive.....take your pick.

Before prohibition, every single community in America had a minimum of one in the local community.  From November of 1620.....we had an acceptance of taverns in America.  When the Pilgrims landed.....if you sat down and examined their top ten priorities.....brewing beer and establishing a public house was on the top ten list.  As more people arrived, their priority was to build communities with public houses.  Beer and whiskey openly flowed.

I'm reading through a book by Susan Cheever (Drinking in America).  She notes early on in American history, as the Mayflower is sailing across the Atlantic with their band of a hundred-odd passengers.....there are two assortments of beer onboard.  Most people wouldn't ever note this in history books or get a lecture from some professor which would cover this little item.

Why two assortments?  One was strictly for the crew, and one strictly for the hundred-odd passengers.  Someone sat down and added up the numbers, and what was left by the time that the boat was ready to return to England.  The statistical side of this story is that from the adults onboard as passengers.....they roughly consumed a gallon of decent high-grade beer (figure a minimum of six-percent alcohol).  If you figure the typical weight (they were hefty or overweight guys back in that period) and being awake sixteen hours a day on the voyage.....they were a bit tipsy for the entire trip.

Why?  As Cheever points out.....sloshed people are happy people, and whine less.  It was common through England at the live off a liquid diet of beer or whiskey.

If you examine the accomplishments of the remaining forty-odd people who survived the first winter after landing.....there's the brewery establishment and the public house.

Cheever goes on to note one other curious thing which I thought was interesting.

There are roughly six guys who contributed in some way to the Constitution and it's pieces.  Thomas Jefferson is one of the six.

From what people generally know.....Thomas Jefferson sat down one evening at the Indian Queen Tavern in Philly, with a quill and ink on one side, and an ale on the other side.

You can imagine the scene.....night falling.....little light in a dimly-lit tavern.....a guy playing a mandolin in the background and some drunk guys discussing something other than turbo-charged engines, NFL games, NCAA bowl episodes, or the Kardashians.

A line here, a sip there.....two or three hours likely pass with Jefferson sitting at the roughly cut wood bench or sturdy chair.....perhaps a bit fuzzed and having no limitations over his thought process.  He's writing the best stuff of his life, while on the 2nd or 3rd serving of ale.

He probably finishes up the evening.....wraps the written draft up and puts it into his pocket....and settles with the tavern-keeper.  He might have said a word or two to the guys at the bar....noting agreement over some argument concerning horses or buggy-whips.  He might have winked at the hostess gal who served drinks and tried to catch one last eye-full of an open blouse.  He probably turned to face the image of this tavern and it's shadowy landscape.  Then he left.

This is probably one of the little features of our history that gets mostly forgotten.  Jefferson wrote bits and pieces of the Constitution, while under the influence, and while under a fairly happy influence.

So when you sit in some dive, or honky tonk, or might want to look around because there's some heavy thinking going on by some occupants of the establishment.  They are thinking at their best.....when relieved of stress and the support of beer or booze.