For each dollar of liquor revenue collected, taxpayers are paying out more than $11 to offset the baneful results of the alcoholic beverage traffic

Darkness was falling in Connecticut on November 18, 1949, as a sedan left Wallingford for Massachusetts. Douglas Shepardson, teacher of English at Choate School, was driving, and beside him rode his wife, Ruth, headmistress of St. Margaret’s School for Girls in Waterbury. As the car sped along, Doug and Ruth had not an inkling of the tragedy ahead. They passed through Hartford and reached Vernon.

Suddenly out of the west roared a coupe. Doubtless its driver was usually a responsible citizen; but he had been drinking, and alcohol had robbed him of steady hands and keen vision. Overtaking the Shepardsons, he tried to pass their car but sideswiped it instead. A crash of rending metal as the cars tangled! Then, silence.… Ruth was dead of a fractured skull; Doug, unconscious, had severe injuries. The driver of the coupe lay bleeding.

The coroner’s verdict, as published later in the Wallingford Post, declared: “I find … that the manner in which said———operated his car … in consequence of his intoxication, caused the loss of life of said Ruth Chandler Shepardson.…”

Ruth Shepardson was my only sister. All my life I have been a total abstainer, but in this accident I received a crushing blow from John Barleycorn. When fooling the American public, this deceiver has a charming expression; but if we strip off his mask, his face appears in its shocking brutality. Barleycorn has hurt me in other traffic accidents also. Mr. and Mrs. Don Lee, old friends of mine, started from Pullman, Washington, one January evening in 1954 to drive to a city eight miles away. They had barely left home, according to Lee, when a drinking driver’s car wrecked theirs. Lee’s left hand was crushed and his left foot crippled. His wife’s face was so disfigured that it required plastic surgery.

Here is another kind of outrage. A young couple, whom I will call Jim and Linda, lived near me while Jim was attending college. They had two sons, aged about eight and six. In a popular campus club Linda soon became a leader, but unfortunately the pair began to drink. Domestic friction increased; neighbors called police one night to quell a family fight. Jim left home, and the court warned Linda that, unless she reformed, she would lose custody of her children. Nevertheless she could not stay sober. At last reports her sons had a guardian, and Linda had returned to her mother’s home. In wrecking this family Barleycorn struck me hard.

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Moreover, Barleycorn is also holding me up and taking my money. Old John’s friends vow he is a profitable source of revenue. Yet in certain states the figures belie this. For example, the California Council on Alcohol Problems declares, “For every dollar of beer and liquor taxes received, California spends $5.23 on direct measurable costs.” A few years ago the Alcohol Problems Association of Washington State stated that, for each dollar of liquor revenue collected, we taxpayers were paying out more than $11 to take care of the results of the alcoholic beverage traffic. For me personally this meant handing over extra taxes of $132 a year.

Now look briefly at liquor’s nationwide toll. Recent data from the National Safety Council warrant the conclusion that about 6,100 of the 47,700 traffic fatalities in 1964 involved the “contributing circumstance” of drinking. The aggregate of reports covering the seventeen-year period 1948–1964 justifies the estimate that, in this period, Barleycorn littered our highways with 59,832 dead—more than the population of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“Injury accidents” in 1964 are reported by the National Safety Council as having totaled 1,100,000, and alcohol may have been involved in 91,300 of them. For the six-year period 1959–1964, a conservative estimate of the total number of “injury accidents” in which drinking may have been “a contributing factor” is 436,700.

Likewise appalling is the havoc wrought by old John among American homes. Some authorities blame drink for many of the nearly 400,000 divorces recorded annually. Judge Donald R. Long of the Oregon Circuit court says, “A study of 1,000 [divorce] cases reveals liquor involved in approximately 40 per cent.”

As for alcoholism, it is spreading like an epidemic. Already approximately 9,000,000 Americans axe chronic alcoholics, and the number may be growing by as many as 200,000 a year. Some experts now consider this ailment to be the nation’s “No. 3 health problem”; most alarming perhaps is the fact that one-fourth of our alcoholics are women.

Pointing out the part alcohol plays in crime, Conrad S. Jensen, former New York city police inspector, says in a recent book, 26 Years on the Losing Side, “Our jails, at tremendous expense to the taxpayer, are filled with people who are there because of ‘booze.’ ” He quotes a statement that alcoholics may eventually comprise half of the jail population, because of offenses committed in connection with drinking. At this rate, alcohol-flavored crimes would total more than 1,000,000 annually.

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(After a sermon illustration by Paul H. A. Noren)

Ten thousand oinking swine are a lot.

On a clear hot day they are frightful, huge beings rushing without seeing down a hill in a hurry to be killed.

Imagine, ten thousand pigs running, screaming.

You might think you were dreaming hearing them shriek into the water one atop another.

Mother, sister, father, son, and brother goaded, prodded, pushed, pulled into oblivion.

“What a waste of pork,” you think.

Or, “How the water will stink with dying, rumbling pigs.

Too bad.”

But on the hill, no longer mad, two men leave their chains and look toward life.


Finally, consider the financial waste in America because of alcohol. We squander $13.5 billion a year on the liquor itself; absenteeism and various other industrial losses devour another billion; and the states, in taking care of the results of alcohol with hospitals, asylums, jails, police protection, and welfare grants, drain the public purse unmercifully. Clearly, America’s No. 1 thug is running amok, and every citizen—abstainer or drinker—is suffering from his attacks.

Scientists long ago disproved the notion that beverage alcohol is only a stimulant. It is actually an anesthetic drug, a depressant, related to ether and chloroform. Even some popular publications have warned the public of this. Pageant, for example, published “The Big Lie About Moderate Drinking,” by William Rambo, who says that as little as half a drop of alcohol in 1,000 drops of a person’s blood will affect “higher brain centers.”

Contrary to popular belief, even small amounts of alcohol can be dangerous. Two drinks of whiskey can make a concentration in an average-sized person’s blood of one-half drop per 1,000, and two bottles of ordinary beer will do the same. Tests have proved that this can double the reaction time needed for braking a car. Moreover, even the first drink impairs judgment and may cause a driver to become just over-confident enough to cause an accident.

Why do we take this dreadful punishment? Perhaps it is because the masses are still shackled by the tradition that alcohol is just a “stimulant.” Or it may be that many dare not face the truth that alcohol is a narcotic drug. It is also possible that numerous nondrinkers, deceived by misleading advertising, are apathetic.

What can we do? Is not our first step to promote education—education in the widest sense, determined and sustained? By every means possible let us saturate America with the truth. The call is to strip liquor of its glamour. Unmask John Barleycorn. Expose his real image, revealing the traffic deaths and injuries, divorces, crimes, disease, and financial waste he causes.

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To be sure, most public schools already teach the facts about alcohol. But much more needs to be done. There must be unremitting exposure of the toll alcohol is exacting in America today. The plain fact is that through pressures of advertising and social conformity, America has slipped into a thoughtless and callous acceptance of the appalling human losses caused by alcoholism. What is needed is a torrent of public indignation that will work not only through churches but also through PTA’s, service clubs, press, radio, and television to keep the facts about alcohol and its social and moral consequences before the nation. But above all, Christians must themselves see the problem in the light of the Bible. For Scripture demands reverence for our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, as well as personal examples of temperance and abstinence before friends and neighbors. We need to get down on our knees before God in the battle against John Barleycorn.

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