With the giant leaps in technology in the last quarter century or so, particularly in instant communication, some acquired sophistication has toned down the braggadocios.
But Texans remain different. Take liquor laws.
A great deal of Texas is “dry.” With such unusual local option liquor laws, you get counties where one town or one precinct is “wet” or can sell alcoholic beverages. An electorate can choose from a list of how alcoholic beverages can be sold. An area can vote for sale only by package stores, selling beverages in closed containers, not for consumption on premises.
SEVERAL generations ago, after Texas emerged from Prohibition that banned the sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages, anti-alcohol organizations raised enough objections so that sale and consumption were limited to certain hours. At first, it was no sale or consumption on Sundays. Then, sale on Sundays was approved, but a great many church groups opposed any sale during the morning hours when church services were held. Good ol’ boys made light of it with such statements as, “We had to set opening at 1 p.m. so the Baptist deacons could get an even start with everyone else.” You can, of course, substitute any denomination you wish. It happened the area where I grew up was predominantly Baptist, so that’s what the “wets” said to deride opposition.
Since “liquor by the drink” wasn’t legal until the 1970s, some groups got the Legislature to pass a law allowing private clubs. Principal beneficiaries were country clubs. Hotels and restaurants got into the act, so you could buy a temporary membership card and have a mixed drink with dinner.
Texas grew over the last half of the 20th Century and newcomers from states that had more liberal liquor laws pushed for change.
TODAY, YOU can be in a town that offers night clubs where liquor is sold by the drink; package stores with whiskey, wine and beer for off premises consumption; supermarkets with the same offerings as package stores; plus private clubs and restaurants.
However, watching some of the shenanigans between the “wets” and “drys” over the years is an education in itself and most certainly entertaining.
Many years ago, Texas lawmakers gave in to certain groups and outlawed driving a motor vehicle with an open alcoholic beverage container. Some ingenious whiskey peddler came up with drinks that had covers with holes for straws (an idea no doubt stolen from Louisiana drive-thru daiquiri bars enabling them to skirt state laws against “open containers”).
One of the more amusing upshots of the wet-dry debate and religion has to do with a package store in a predominantly Baptist area in East Texas. The store’s drive-thru window is on the backside of the building and was dubbed “the Baptist window,” ostensibly so Baptists could buy their booze obscured from public view.
ONE EAST TEXAS town had two wet-dry votes in a 3-year period. A restaurateur was behind the petitions to vote. The “drys” won both times. So, the enterprising restaurateur pushed for a package store option in a neighboring county and, upon passage, opened a “whiskey store” (his words). He and his family belonged to a large church in his town. His wife and children attended and he sent a big check regularly.
A few months after his whiskey store opened, the restaurateur received a visit by three men from his church. They came to “church” him, read him out of church membership. He laughed at them and pointed to a back door and said, “Go right ahead but just remember that I built this !@#$% with that door so your church brethren could come in without being seen and I couldn’t keep this !@#$% open without ‘em!”
Texas’ growth and softened views by some denominations on drinking in moderation have reduced the electoral confrontations some, but if you ever want to see a knockdown, drag-out, bare-knuckled electoral fray, keep an eye out for a wet-dry election.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.