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"Our Town" By James W. Tucker
Thursday, July 10, 1958
A feather of the Portsmouth Herald
-- printed daily on the editorial page -- is called "Looking Back in the Herald." Short, pithy, newsworthy items which appeared in the columns of the Herald of 100, 75, 50, 25, 10, 5 years and one year ago, are reprinted in this feature of New Hampshire's oldest newspaper.
Beer on Leased Land
On June 30 last, this item of 25 years ago appeared: "At yesterday's town meeting, voters in Hampton voted in favor of beer sales on land leased by the town of Hampton to the Hampton Beach Improvement Company."
Looking For Record
We had forgotten about a special town meeting on June 29, 1933, but we remember when beer of light alcoholic content was sold at various places on leased land at Hampton Beach. So, quite naturally, we consulted our file of Hampton Town Reports -- and specifically the Report for the year ending January 31, 1934.
Ordinarily, this volume would have contained a record of the annual Town Meeting, held on Tuesday, March 14, 1933 and any subsequent special meetings. But it contained no report, either of the regular, or of any of the many very important special town meetings which had been held in the twelve months previous to January 31, 1934. One of these special meetings had to do with the adoption by the town of the provisions of the law passed by the 1933 Legislature concerning the ceding of several miles of Hampton's shoreline to the State.
Efficient Town Clerk
But we were particularly interested in that special meeting which authorized the sale of beer on leased land at the Beach. It didn't take genial and efficient Helen Hayden, our town's attractive town clerk, but a couple of minutes to find the official record of the meeting in question. It was neatly engrossed in the handwriting of the late Billy Brown, well remembered town clerk of that era. As to why this record, and the records of all the other important meetings were not contained in the Annual Report dated January 31, 1934 -- as was customary then and is customary now -- your guess would be exactly as good as ours.
Legalizing Beer Sales
The beer resolution, introduced by the late Victor Grandmaison, was as follows: "The Town of Hampton will permit the sale of beer, as legalized by the N. H. Legislature of 1933, on the premises owned by the Town located at Hampton Beach and under lease to the Hampton Beach Improvement Company and other parties, so long as the sale of such beer shall be legal elsewhere in said Hampton." The record continues: "Duly seconded and voted." We do not remember for how long a period the sale of beer was legalized in our town. It was not long, hardly more than a year, if that long. But beer was sold, despite the repeated assertions of many citizen who hold the wholly untenable position that Hampton has always been a dry town.
Time and time again, over the long years, liquor has been legally sold in our town, but fortunately the temperate character of Hampton has never been changed. All sorts of dire prophesies were made when a limited restaurant license was granted to the [Lamie's]
Tavern a few months ago, none of which has come true. It was stated that a dozen applications were to be made for licenses in the Beach area and that several south be in operation by the Fourth. This is a fair example of the many exaggerated statements that were made when a Tavern license was being debated.
Proof of Temperance
If folks who live in our town -- residents and welcome guests alike -- were inclined to overindulgence in liquor, they could drink to their hearts content by merely visiting the state store, which is less than four miles down the Boston road, and buying, at comparatively low prices, any type of liquor they might desire. But we believe the record will prove conclusively that there are many less arrests per capita for drunkenness and for driving under the influence in Hampton than in any other recreational community in the state.
Misuse of Enthusiasm
It's too bad that well-intentioned folks who crusade at the drop of a hat for prohibition and against liquor, cannot be a little more temperate in their arguments. Their fanatical zeal in opposition to liquor and its controlled sale, is often used by unscrupulous business men to gain their own selfish goals. But such zealots, blinded by their utopian vision of a nation unsullied by alcoholism, have no idea that their enthusiasm is often used by others to gain an entirely unrelated end. And then there are also the hypocrites.
Can't Legislate Morality
It has been proven conclusively that prohibition does not prohibit -- that you can't legislate successfully to overcome entirely the curse of alcoholism. The sale of spirituous liquors can be controlled to a considerable extent and the doctrine of temperance can be preached to willing ears. But prohibition is one thing and temperance another. George Bernard Shaw said: "The only way you can fight booze is by ceasing to make life chronically painful for the masses." Temperance means moderation. That's what is needed. That's what should be preached.
Attack on Intemperance
Robert Dodsley, an English author and bookseller of the first half of the eighteenth century, was a foe of intemperance. He was against overindulgence in every form -- in eating, as well as in drinking and in the varied pleasures of life. He wrote: "Though a taste of pleasure may quicken the relish of life, an unrestrained indulgence leads to inevitable destruction." In another of his treatises on this subject, Dodsley termed intemperance "the favorite and prime minister" of death.
A Thousand Advocates
Of temperance there are thousands of advocates. Benjamin Franklin wrote: "Temperance puts wood on the fire, meal in the barrel, flour in the tub, money in the purse, credit in the country, contentment in the house, clothes on the children, vigor in the body, intelligence in the brain and spirit in the whole constitution.
Apple Pie Paunch
John Erskine, American educator and writer who died in 1951, said: "Temperance is the control of all the functions of our bodies. The man who refuses liquor, goes in for apple pie and develops a paunch is no ethical leader for me." Theodore Parker, American theologist, wrote, "Temperance is corporal piety; it is the preservation of divine order in the body."
It is probably true that our nation and our town and we as individuals need to be more temperate. Perhaps with added temperance in our drinking, in our eating, in our speaking and in all our pleasures, we would become happier and more useful citizens. But it will be well for all of us to keep in mind, when considering the use or the sale of beer or spirituous liquors, that while it has been proven impossible to enforce prohibition, there is no limit to the good which may be accomplished through temperance.
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