Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

July 7, 2010

Whiskey Bottles

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

A satire piece in The Onion and several other sources, reported that in November 2008, the Texas Legislature received a proposal that required all whiskey bottles be tossed overhead and shot clean out of the air the moment they are emptied.  This was proposed as the proper way to dispose of the empty bottle.  Legislators maintained that those without access to firearms could dispose of them by allowing their children to toss them off the back of the pickup truck.

Such news brought to memory my early days with whiskey bottles!  I never realized it, but I guess I was the in “whiskey bottle disposal business.”  Whiskey bottles were very available in my life.  Not that one was ever seen in my home, but along the streets, in the bushes, on the vacant lots, and along the railroad tracks, such bottles were always seen.  They had been thrown aside when empty.

There were various sizes and shapes of these bottles.  The most common was the pint flask bottle.  Then there were the long necked fifth.  A fifth was a bottle that held slightly less than a quart–or a fifth of a gallon.  The common jargon was a pint or a fifth!  The pint was not round like the fifth, but flat like a flask.  It was common for a man to tuck it in his belt or put it in his back pocket.  (Hopefully, he was sober enough not to sit down too hard!)  The long neck fifth was usually round, but occasionally you would find a square one.  In those days, some still had a cork, but many had a twist-off top.

These bottles were disposed of because they could not be re-used.  After the repeal of the 18th Amendment in December 1933, liquor was required to be sold only in bottles.  Legislation in 1935 prohibited the resale or use of used liquor bottles.  So what did you do with them?  You might find a trash bin, but in those days,  garbage was burned in your yard and what would not burn was buried.  Those finishing their bottle of whiskey had no reason to carry the bottle home, so they just threw it aside.  It had no value or re-use, so it was simply thrown away.  Not so with the moonshine container; those fruit jars could be used again and again!

The availability of these whiskey bottles was important to us as we grew up. We found uses for them.  When we would find one along the road or the railroad tracks, we would always pick it up.  There was always a small amount, probably just a good swallow, left in the bottle.  Most of the time the cap was still on the bottle.  We would usually open it and dare each other to take a drink. It was always a temptation.  Being inherently aware that we should not, and convinced we did not want to put our mouth on the bottle where someone else had drunk, we would laugh and forget the dare and resist the temptation.  However, there were a few times when we might turn the bottle up enough to let it soak our finger, and then we would lick the finger!  None of us ever liked the smell, and certainly not the taste.

But the bottles were important to us.  They made big pops when we threw them against the train rail and they would shatter and break!  The trouble was that there were not enough to do it several times.  But the best use of the bottles was for target practice.

The glass of the whiskey bottles was thick.  An ordinary BB gun would not usually break it.  If the bottle was on a narrow post, several BB shots might dislodge it and it would fall to the ground.  Where we lived, we could not use a rifle so our best challenge was with a sling shot, or simply throwing rocks at the bottle.  The round or square bottles were the same challenge, but the pint flask was the real challenge.  It was a little broader than the round bottles so it was best with the BB gun, but for a sling shot or throwing rocks, we turned it side-ways so that you faced the narrow side.  We were ahead of the Texas legislature.  We disposed of the bottles!

I do remember a special sermon by an evangelist during those days.  He was yelling about the evils of whiskey.  He had my attention.  I already knew what I had been taught, but I had never heard anyone be so vehement.  His shouting was almost scary.  As he concluded all that ranting, he pounded the pulpit by saying that all the whiskey in town should be taken down to the river and poured out.  With perspiration beading from his brow, he turned to the song director to lead the congregation.  Our song director got up and asked us to sing, “Shall We Gather at the River.”

The last paragraph  is not true . . . I just couldn’t resist!

I do have one serious word.  I am so grateful for early training and examples that provided something almost innate within me to have no desire for whiskey.  Of course, once the Lord took over my life, I certainly faced no temptation.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6)  “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13)



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