I've been reading more student essays, written in conjunction with their reading of Caroline Knapp's riveting memoir of alcoholism and recovery, *Drinking: A Love Story*. I realize as I read their papers that I am not of the school of thought that sees things as worse today than they used to be. It would be easy as I read about the struggles some of my students have or have had with alcohol, to say that young people today drink alcohol much more than kids did when I was their age.
This would be patently untrue, in my experience, especially when I recall the kind of drinking a lot of us were doing, say, in 1972 and forward in Kellogg, Idaho. It is untrue, also, when I recall the stories my dad used to tell about his exploits drinking in Kellogg and during his brief tenure as a student at North Idaho College of Education in Lewiston, Idaho.
My dad's favorite hangout in Lewiston was the Stables, a bar just east of town on Highway 12. I wish I knew more about the Stables. I was there once, in summer 1973, and have only the fuzziest memory of it. I had been drinking all the way from Kellogg to Lewiston in preparation for a men's slowpitch softball tournament. Dave Braun took me out to the Stables. He knew Dad had been a patron and a bartender at the Stables, so we went.
My favorite Stables story my dad told involved a hustle my dad and his Kellogg friends used to pull on unsuspecting college kids, probably kids from Cottonwood or Grangeville or Kendrick or Lewiston or Pierce or any of the other small Idaho towns served by N. I. C. E. You see, one of the Kellogg guys, Donnie Rinaldi, had a skill for opening his throat and being able to quickly pour large quantities of beer down his gullet. Therefore, in order to get together some beer drinking money, Dad and his friends would bet any takers that Donnie could drink a schooner of beer faster than one of the other guys could drink a shot of whiskey. Or, they would bet Donnie could drink a pitcher of beer faster than an opponent could drink a schooner.
There was always a taker. So, the money would be laid out. The drinks poured. And, boom, Donnie always won and they won enough money to drink on for the rest of the night. They must have done this in different parts of the tavern as the night went on or made this bet with new patrons as they entered. The way dad told it, they would win this money, but Donnie never got to enjoy the beer that came from winning the wagers. He'd be out back puking.
That Donnie would fall on his sword, so to speak, and win bets by drinking high volumes of beer quickly so his friends could drink the winnings, while he puked outside, delighted my dad. He must have told this story over twenty or thirty times and he always laughed, like he'd never told it before, at the memory of Donnie "out back puking his guts out while we got shitfaced in the bar!"
I wonder if the fifty and sixty years olds in 1949 looked at my dad and Donnie and the rest of them and said, "Things are really going to hell. Look at these kids today. Don't they have any sense?"