Sunday, September 2, 2018

8-Year-Old Sarah Does Her Part to Abolish Alcohol and Tobacco

Sarah Eva Howe of Carrollton, Kentucky grew up in a family of teetotalers. Her father was a card-carrying member of the national  temperance movement. Her mother (and later Sarah herself) was a life-long member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
Sarah's father's temperance card

Little wonder, then, that Sarah at a young age was involved in anti-drinking activities sponsored by her church, her school, and her community. She wrote a lot about Prohibition in her scrapbooks. In today's post, I offer some excerpts, written in the 1940s, starting with Sarah's memories of a musical production (probably sponsored by the Carrollton Methodist Episcopal church or an affiliated prohibition group) about the evils of drink.

Again, ellipses indicate missing or omitted words, and brackets enclose my own clarifications. In this memoir, which she wrote to her daughter Mary Alice Salyers Hays in the 1940s, Sarah is not kind to certain tavern keepers of 1890s Carrollton. I ask descendants of those men to remember that Sarah speaks from an ingrained prohibitionist stance.


[Sarah's cousins] Beverly Howe and Cooper Winslow (both seven, and I nearly nine), whose parents were known Prohibitionists, were chosen for the trio, to the music of “A Pirate Ship’s in Sight” (either from Pinafore or Penzance, but I think Pinafore. Oh, I know! It is the song “Attentive to our duty” that the sailors sing). ... The last lines, I think:
We’re going to hang “Old Alky”
He was a cruel king.
From the “Temperance Gibbet
The wretch must surely swing.

They were so cute; they stood on each side of me. ...  Bev was the soldier (in blue) and Cooper the sailor, also in blue, I think, but with the white cap. I wore a white sailor dress and a regular white sailor cap with “gold” braid, with black hose and high shoes, in the Navy tradition. ...  I was called Prohibition Polly and should have been delighted with the special part, but the truth is I secretly longed to be glamorous even then and felt cheated as I looked at Mildred and Jenne Howe1 and my new friend Lisa Hafford, all of whom were fairies coming in during the last number for the dance and song. Jenne and Mildred, in white with silver dots, were water sprites and sang (with a dozen others) “The Waters that flow from the Spring, tra la, gleam bright in the merry sunshine, As gaily they dance and they sing, tra la, We welcome the joy that they bring, tra la, and hail them a beverage divine!”

... A pretty, tiny girl of five, with yellow hair and a pink dress, was called Baby Bunting, but I forget her speech; she was Gertie Lawrence, the flowerlike little sister of Burgess and Ernest and others. While she was speaking, a near tragedy occurred. The house was overcrowded, people standing up around the sides. Of course there was no electricity, and one of the boys who was helping put up “Old Alky’s” gibbet, or perhaps taking it down, someone knocked one of the oil lamps, still lighted, out of its socket to the stage. As it smoked there, people began to murmur and start to rise. Gertie stopped in alarm (the lamp was near her). Several rushed out from the wings and grabbed the lamp, which went out right away. Lisa rushed forward, executed a “free dance” and shouted “Listen to this child!” Everyone laughed and relaxed, and Gertie went on with her little speech. ...  I suppose it was one of the most elaborate and interesting things seen in Carrollton for many years.

Dad2 [referring to her daughter's father] was not in this entertainment, but his brother Bob3 was one of the boys (I think Cousin John4 was one of these, too) who “buried Nick-O-Teen.” At that time the fight against tobacco was very strong, too, and of course cigarettes were pretty bad in those days — but I believe if the temperance people had concentrated on whiskey they would have done better sooner. But these boys carried in a pole, from which hung a twist of tobacco, pipes, etc., and buried “him” in a grave on the stage (with shovels, etc.) and sang a minor adaptation of the Marines song:
We’ve come to bury Nick-O-Teen.
He is a filthy poisonous wretch.
He is the brother of King Alcohol
And many victims does he “ketch.”
He takes away their health and money
The morals of his prisoners, too,
And so we’ve come to bury him
For we hate him, yes we do!

It was one of the best songs and best scenes and should have had a more terrible enemy as its object, as I see it now.

I want to say right now that the Prohibition party in those days was one predominantly of members not “in the lunatic fringe” but was made up for the most part of earnest, forward looking citizens, mostly good church people, who could see no other way than a clean cut to rid the country of the horrible menace which the liquor traffic certainly was in those days if not now, as both political parties were almost completely controlled by it, and all the headquarters were in such places as Tammany Hall, the “Tenderloin,” the Barbary Coast, and in other cities. As Bryan afterwards said about the Conservatives and Liberals, perhaps the Prohibitionists, unchecked, would have gone too far, but without them the reforms that have been imposed, not selling to minors, Sunday closing, and finally, regular sawdust open saloons abolished, would never have been accomplished. So I am proud that my people had a part in this.

... There was an important trip Papa and Mama5 took in the spring of 1892, and that was to the Prohibition Party Convention, which was held in Cincinnati when John P. St. John [the Prohibition candidate] was nominated for President to run against Harrison (the Republican “incumbent”).  ... I remember the “buttons” Jenne and her family wore; Mildred was for Harrison, of course. Uncle Joe was still a Prohibitionist at the time (he voted the national ticket before Papa did), but he afterwards succumbed to the Goslee Republican pressure, as Mr. George Winslow, also a Prohibitionist from his first vote as was Mr. Henry6, his brother, fell to the Hafford7 intense partisanism. These four, with Mr. Will Winslow,8 who attended the convention with Papa and Mama (I think Uncle Joe, Mr. Henry & Mrs. George came up for part of the time) were well known to be real temperance men who “voted as they prayed,” as the saying went then. Uncle Will,9 tho with much pressure both from brothers and brothers-in-law, still remained a Democrat, not quite willing to leave the party which as a real born-in-Ireland man he felt to be the true one.  ...

Crowd at the National Prohibition Convention at Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1892
I have heard Mama tell so much about this convention, held at Music Hall, and about the Demorest Diamond Medal Contest held at one of the sessions, about Miss [Frances] Willard’s address and the songs of the Silver Lake Quartet (which afterwards sang at Carrollton) that it seems I was there, but of course I wasn’t, I stayed at Grandma’s with my doting aunts and my young, interesting uncles. ...

I believe [William] Jennings Demorest (not Bryan) was a prominent “Probi,” as some

called them, and his estate provided for these contests — I think they are still going on — wherein girls and boys gave these fine temperance readings as addresses in elimination contests, getting (a) a silver medal, (b) a larger silver medal), (c) a gold medal and finally, every four years at the National Convention, (d) a large gold medal set with a diamond was given the best of all contestants among the sectional gold medal winners, about a dozen, I think. I had been with Mama to the Christian Church at home where a silver medal was given, about the summer of 1891, I suppose; Hallie Whitehead (Earl’s sister), Mary Whitehead (Mrs. “Dr.” Donald), Jennie Hanks (George McFarland’s aunt), Lille Howe,10 Jennie Stringfellow and several other girls of that age — Nell Hafford, too, I think, and Lillie Roberts ... all took part. Lille was very hoarse but went on and spoke anyway; Jennie Stringfellow got the medal, but we all thought Jenne Howe and one other girl were better than she was (I forget which one), but there was a good crowd out to see them, and I remember Aunt Katie telling how proud Jennie was of her medal. Anyway, Mama got to hear the Diamond Medal contest. ...

Frances Willard addressed the convention at night. Mama said she remarked right at the first what a fine, clean looking lot of people were at this convention, and Mama said this was true. Music Hall was packed, but with such intelligent, serious looking people and of course no drunks or disorderly persons. The Silver Lake Quartet was from Hornellsville, New York. We entertained them afterwards (in 1894, I think) and they were delightful people and very fine singers. Mr. Chambers, a plump man, played the piano and sang soprano, but the bass baritone did the comedy singing, and they had wonderful parodies and arrangements of many songs, and also led convention singing. It was this quartet that sang the famous “It was built by Levi (P. Morton), oh no! He will be known as the Vice President." He was [Benjamin] Harrison’s V.P., you know. The thing he had done was to build a big bar in some hotel. The chorus of the song about Levi was like this:
There is a hotel, they call it the Shoreham
They catch young men with liquor and floor em
And then upstairs in the rooms they store em
In this beautiful new hotel.
And 'twas built by Levi.
Not Levi?
Yes, Levi
Oh No! (bases)
Oh yes, say I, (tenor)
Oh Levi, Levi, what made you do it?
Oh Levi, Levi you surely will rue it!
For dealing out vice may help pay the rent
But you will be known as the vice president.”

(He wasn’t re-elected that year, either!)

I believe it was also this quartet who introduced “The Brewer’s Big Horses can’t roll over me!” Very pertinent then, as the big brewery wagons were pulled by enormous gray dappled horses, sort of Percherons, with big tails doubled up in a club. Everyone knew
Dappled Percherons
about these horses, and in Cincinnati, which was even more German then than now, in proportion, the smell of beer hung like a heavy cloud over everything. I tell you, I can remember with horror the many many saloons even in Carrollton, especially down 5th Street between High and Main, where Bob Booker and Mr. Vest (Ding’s grandfather) kept about as disorderly places as you could find far or near. It was in Vests, I think, that Jerome [last name not legible] was killed a few years after this (about ’98). When they were rebuilding that block and digging a new cellar, they dug up the skeleton of a man under Booker's — and it was supposed he was put out of the way there hastily at some time, but no one could be found who knew anything about it, and alas Conan Doyle was just thinking of the first “Sherlock” stories at that time. The smell of these places was indescribable. I can recall them tho all the years, even from across the street on the Courthouse pavement as we went hastily by. Jim Jett did try, I think, to keep a better place; at least it was considered a good deal more “respectable.” But to all the Howes, these places (and their owners) were indeed anathema.

Of course, Dad2 and Grandad11 couldn’t understand this exactly, for Grandad had grown up with the Jett boys, who lived near the Salyers boys on Main Street; also the Bookers lived across from them on Sixth Street for about ten years, and Oscar Vest (much different from his father) was always a good friend of Dad’s, tho a little older, of course. It always makes a difference if you really know people; you can’t condemn them so much, I suppose. But I have heard no one speak more conducively of the Booker and Vest “hell holes” than Dad and Grandad.

So perhaps these places may help explain the enthusiasm of the Carrollton women for their children to be in the Temperance Societies and for the church men to tend to be Prohibitionists. Uncle Tom Salyers,12 who moved to Harriman [Tennessee] about this time (or some time earlier) was always a firm “Probi” — the only one of the brothers. I think Harriman was quite a center [of prohibition], and I guess Mr. Will Winslow was in the midst of it.

1 Mildred Goslee was Sarah's friend and eventually distantly related through the marriage of her uncle Joseph Brown Howe (1857-1929) and Sallie Goslee (1858-1934). Jenne Winslow Howe (1883-1957) was Sarah's cousin, the daughter of her uncle William F. Howe (1846-1916) and Louisiana Winslow Howe (1852-1944).
2 Sarah's husband William Levi Salyers (18788-1944), father of her daughter Mary Alice Salyers Hays (1910-1998), to whom she writes this memoir.
3 Robert King Salyers (1880-1897), brother of William Levi Salyers
4 Probably John Junior Howe (1879-1939), brother of Jenn Winslow Howe
5 Sarah's parents Robert James Howe (1855-1910) and Alice Ada Cost Howe (1859-1939)
6 George B. Winslow (dates unknown) and Henry M. Winslow (1850-1931) were sons of William Beverly Winslow (1814-1883) and Martha Jane Woolfork Winslow (1826-1905). Their siblings included Louisiana "Lou" Winslow (see Endnote 1)
7 The family of Lucy Hafford Winslow, who married George B. Winslow in 1894 in Carrollton
8 Probably William Beverly Winslow (1862-?) another sibling (see Endnote 6)
9 Probably Sarah's paternal uncle William Ficklin Howe (see Endnote 1)
10 Lille/Lillie M. Howe (1877-1942), Sarah's cousin; another daughter of William F. and Louisiana Winslow Howe
11 Charles D. Salyers (1849-1926), Sarah's father-in-law (father of William Levi Salyers)
12 Thomas D. Salyers (abt 1858-?), brother of Charles D. Salyers and uncle of Sarah's husband

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