Friday July 25, 2014

From the ‘oh, how times have changed’ file


Whilst surfing the Internet (do people still surf the Internet?) last week, I came across an alleged weird Saskatchewan law that it is illegal to drink water in a beer parlour.

This purported weird law is repeated all over the Web, but I could not find any verification that it was ever on the books. It certainly is not currently. Then again there is no reference to beer parlours in the Alcohol and Gaming Act either so I suspect it is a relic of another time, if it indeed ever did exist.

Beer parlours were a big topic of debate back in the 1930s, however. Up until 1935 beer was not available by the glass in Saskatchewan. The January 24 edition of The Enterprise suggested how hotly debated it was.

“Probably no bill of recent years has been subjected to such close  and meticulous scrutiny in the provincial legislature, members obviously determined that, when the bill does emerge in final form it will be as close what they think the people want as they can make it,” a Page 1 story read.

There is a reference in the article to a clause that makes me suspect the alleged illegal water law is a misinterpretation.

“Sale of soft drinks in beer parlours had proved another contentious points which was defeated after spirited debate, only by casting vote of the chairman, Charles Agar, who following the tenor of the rules, negatived the proposal.

The most heated debate, however, was reserved for the establishment of separate beer parlours for women.

This was an amendment proposed by Henry Mang, the MLA for Lumsden and was passed despite stiff opposition from Premier James Gardiner. He argued that of the hundreds of letters he had received from women’s organizations most opposed any kind of beer parlour and none suggested parlours for women.

The debate caught national attention. An article in the Montreal Gazette focused on the argument against segregation of men and women.

“For example, Mr. Kemper, M.L.A., thought it might be well to have men and women drinking socially together and he gave some reasons,” the Gazette said. “A man and wife might wish to drink beer and under the projected law they would have to do so in separate parlors. The man might satisfy his thirst first— “might,” mind you—but he would not be permitted to go next door to get his wife home. On the other hand, the wife might be the first to finish, and she also would not be able legally to call on her husband in the mere male parlor. The possibilities of either situation are easy to imagine. Nevertheless the majority of the members would not listen to such reason, and voted for segregation.”

The following is my favourite part as the author waxes into op-ed mode, a mingling of reporting and editorializing that is certainly not usually the style of today. It’s and one of the reasons I love looking at old newspapers.

In the circumstances the term “parlor” in connection with beer for sale by the glass loses some of its significance,” the article continues. “This may not worry the male drinker, who as a rule is concerned only with the main thing, the consumption of the beverage that cheers the heart and warms the body, but does not intoxicate unless pursued too assiduously on a single parlor visit. Perhaps the women of Saskatchewan may not bother much about the segregation, either, for it has never been a custom in Canada for them to enter saloons or taverns. It is altogether likely that the beer parlor proprietors will recognize this and have big parlors for the males and very little ones for the females. The important feature of the new law is that a person may in future buy a glass of beer in Saskatchewan rather than a whole bottle.”




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