Thursday, 30 August 2012


John L. Sullivan, once noted for his prowess as a prize fighter, and a champion of the ring so long as he lived a temperate life, was interviewed the other day in New York by a newspaper reporter, and among other things he said was : “Booze was the only thing that put me out of the fighting game. Booze always was and always will be champion. If you have a lad at home, tell him that booze can meet any weight, concede any handicap, and win hands down. It’s a cinch that booze will beat you.” John L. is not the only man who could give that experience. Some of the brightest intellects, men capable of managing the largest industries, have been wrecked by too frequent indulgence in intoxicating liquors. The successful men of business are those who drink sparingly, if at all. Take the heads of all the great enterprises in the city of Hamilton and you will find them men of moderate habits. John D. Rockefeller, the millionaire of the Standard Oil Company, who less than thirty years ago was a man of moderate means, says that it was by keeping a clear head, free from the fumes of wine, that he was enabled to work out his road to wealth. More than one bright Hamilton man, who stood head and shoulders above his fellows in the management of business affairs, has gone down to obscurity and poverty through the free indulgence of strong drink. Many years ago, an intellectual Scotsman, who had been brought down through drink to become almost a barroom loafer, would occasionally exclaim in front of a saloon, as he saw a young man enter, “Stop, you sinner, stop and think, before you further go!” It was a terrible warning from one who had run down the scale of respectability till he had become so low that even the bartender would not tolerate him unless he entered with some old-time acquaintance to get a drink. There are everyday evidences in the streets of this city of what strong drink will do. The men you see in rags and poverty were once like you, young man, who could take a drink and leave it alone.
          Last Saturday afternoon, a respectably-dressed man, of sixty years of age, or more, was forcibly ejected from a prominent hotel in this city somewhat the worse for liquor. Even in his degradation, he was a gentleman in manners and it was a sad sight to see him roughly-handled by a young man connected with the hotel office. Probably the old man was an acceptable visitor while his money lasted, even though it was a Sunday. Unfortunately such sights are too common in city life. There was a time when that old man boasted in his strength to drink a glass of liquor or leave it alone.


          It did not turn out so badly after all, yet for a time the people were exited at the thought that they would have uncomfortable homes during the winter, or spend all their money in soft coal or wood, both of which became suddenly inflated in value, although they cost not a cent more to produce than in ordinary times. We have become so accustomed to hard coal and furnaces and base burners, they are necessaries instead of luxuries. Every room in the house has to be heated up to seventy degrees to be comfortable in wintertime, and even the poorest family can enjoy the luxury of a warm house when hard coal is only $6 a ton. Indeed one need come under the class of the oldest inhabitant to remember the time when only the well-to-do could afford to have more than one stove in the house besides the kitchen range, and the parlor stove was rarely fired up except on Sundays and holidays. Such a thing as a furnace, except in the house of a nabob, was unknown. Go back half a century or more and the majority of houses in Hamilton were built with a large fireplace in the kitchen, with an iron crane to hang the pots and kettles on. Cooking stoves were a luxury, and the average citizen enjoyed the open fire, piled high with wood, and the mothers of those days baked the family’s salt-rising bread in round iron pots covered and surrounded by red-hot coals; and when they indulged in the extravagance of roast beef or turkeys or geese at Christmas times, the meat was suspended by a string or wire in front of the wood fire and browned to a turn. It makes one’s mouth water even now to think of the delicious roasts of the olden times. If mother was busy, one of the children was put in charge of the roast to keep it properly basted so that the beef or turkey or goose would not bake dry or be burned. Ah, what a flavor that meat had! But let us get back to the heating question. Wood was cheap in those days, the best dry maple and beech selling for $1.50 a cord. The men who chopped the wood and hauled it to town were not making a fortune at the price they charged, but they had to clear up the farms and better get $1.50 a cord than burn it with the brush to get rid of it.
          Even with wood as cheap as it was then, the people in town were saving of it, and when nine o’clock at night came, except on rare occasions, the fire on the hearth or in the stove was carefully covered up with ashes, and within an hour, the kitchen or sitting room was as cold as a barn. No one thought of having a fire in a bedroom, that would not only have been extravagance but very unhealthy. Old-fashioned people were great sticklers for cold rooms to sleep in, but they would bury themselves under a mountain of blankets and quilts, have the windows and the doors closed tight, and not a breath of fresh air was allowed in those rooms during the night. People have learned better now, and heat their bedrooms, while they let the window down from the top for ventilation.
          But this is all digression. How one rambles when the memories of the days of yore come back! The coal strike turned out at last to be more of a scare to consumers of coal than anything else. Of course, the owners of the coal mines and the local coal dealers took advantage of it and reaped a golden harvest while the strike lasted. And the men who had wood to sell, both in town and country, squeezed the poor consumers till the Queen’s head on the five cent pieces groaned in agony at the extortion. It is all over now, however, and it will not be long before hard coal will be so plentiful that even the poorest person will have it to burn. The price may be a little stiff for awhile, but buy it in small quantities till the dealers are compelled to get back to the old figures. Providence has tempered the wind to the shorn coal bins, and thus far in November, the houses have been kept comfortable with but little expenditure of fuel.

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