The drinkers’ social custom

Barroom of the Imperial Hotel in the Crowsnest Pass coal mining town of Frank, North West Territories (now Alberta), 1903. The photo was taken after part of the town, a coal mine and the CPR railway were buried under 90 tons of mountain rock in less than two minutes on April 29,1903. Between 70 and 90 people were killed in Canada’s deadliest landslide. Glenbow Archives NA-414-1.

Booze 1829 — 1920

People don’t drink because they like the stuff, but simply because it’s the accepted thing to do, argued the Winnipeg Times on April 15, 1879.

Physicians say that nearly two-thirds of their male patients suffer in some way or other from alcoholic poison. No close observer will be inclined to doubt this. From the small dram shops to be found at every corner to the larger public places of resort, not excepting the gilded club houses, from the first to the last, the same practices are indulged in.

And who are the drinkers? Boys, young men, middle-aged men, and old men. They all drink.

Two young men meet at some favorite place of resort, and the first words of greeting are, “What will you have?” The drinks are ordered and consumed. There is barely time for a breathing spell, ere number two asks the same question, the invitation is repeated, and again they drink.

Our reporter went into one of the saloons the other day and gathered the following particulars. The place was crowded, there were two bar tenders and in the space of an hour there were fifty beers, forty whiskeys, four lemonades and two sodas sold to all sorts and conditions of men. It was not altogether a resort of bummers, but young men, businessmen and professional men were there for the social compliment…

We have spoken to twenty men… and of that number fifteen said whiskey gave them a headache; two confessed they liked the taste; and the last said he was on a tear, and didn’t care a cent who knew it.

Thus it is with drinking. Nine out of ten men do it because they were invited, and the habit grows. In Winnipeg, more than in any other city in Canada, is the practice of treating carried beyond all reasonable bounds, and evidences of the inevitable results of such indulgences, among some of our best young men, are not wanting.

The doctors say it induces paralysis, indigestion, headache, rheumatism, and weaknesses of many kinds. Not being a doctor, our reporter does not attempt to endorse their opinions, but this can be said; that among all the hundreds of drinkers, regular toppers, not drunkards, to be met with everyday, it would be impossible to find one in ten who will candidly confess that they drink for the love of liquor. They drink because it is customary.



Unfamiliar Canadian history stories 23

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