Sunday, December 20, 2009

All Helena's drunk on Christmas ...

Today's quote is also from Dave Walter's Christmastime in Montana book ... it's an excerpt from a longer piece that helps rebut the nineteenth-century Helena slander I posted yesterday. This is a reminiscence written by a young Presbyterian minister who was stationed back in Helena in 1872:
The Roman Catholics had raised a large sum of money the previous year by holding a Christmas bazaar, and our ladies decided to have a similar bazaar [to raise money for a church building]. They came to me full of the idea and enthusiasm. I approved cordially, but they innocently added, "And we will have dancing and raffling, and we will make lots of money for our church."

"What!" I said. "Have a dance and raffling for a Presbyterian Church?"

"Why, certainly, they replied. "The Roman Catholics made most of their money that way last winter."

I promptly said, "That cannot be." They insisted, and at last I said, "I have a valise; it is readily packed. I will not remain in charge of a Helena church if such a bazaar is undertaken."

. . .

The following Sunday night in the Odd Fellows' Hall (where we were meeting temporarily), I faced a house full of me. . . . I knew that Christmas had been a day of dissipation for many of them. I knew that the coming New Year's Day would be even more so -- as the custom of our leading families was to keep open-house on that day, and to offer refreshments, including liquor, to their guests. With a purpose, my text that night was, "Look Not Upon the Wine When It Is Red." . . .

The next morning, as I walked up Main Street, I was conscious of an atmosphere. Some men would not speak to me; some acted as if their necks had been stiffened. On entering the store of one of my congregation, he shook a warning finger and bade me to look out for myself. I asked why.

He replied, "Because of your temperence sermon last night!" I had suddenly become famous, or rather infamous. The idea of preaching a temperance sermon in Helena -- and such a sermon! I had quoted a remark of a friend, "All Helena's Drunk on Christmas Day," in the sermon. This was taken up on the street with a vengence.

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