I continue to enjoy my wanderings through those two excellent new reference works, Encyclopedia of North Carolina and South Carolina Encyclopedia. Lately I have been musing on alcohol – the drinking kind. Surely the subject is relevant to both states. After all, perhaps the best known joke about the two Carolinas is “What did the governor of South Carolina say to the governor of North Carolina?” The answer, of course, is “It is a long time between drinks!” I was not surprised, therefore, to find that things alcoholic were well represented in the Encyclopedia of North Carolina, with full entries for whiskey, beer and breweries, moonshine, and wine and wine making. There were also full entries on such related topics as the Anti-saloon League, blind tigers, and blue laws, not to mention prohibition.
Well, imagine my surprise when I turned to the South Carolina Encyclopedia and found virtually nothing on the demon rum in any of its various forms: no whiskey, no beer, no wine, and only one mention of moonshine and that in the article on Berkeley County. Come on! Thinking back to my youth in dear old Spartanburg County, I distinctly remember that there were a few folk who would take a drink – at least a small glass of port at Christmas. I call to mind riding down the road with a friend when we passed a sign advertising ginger ale. “Drink Canada Dry?” he said. “I haven’t drunk South Carolina dry yet!” How can I explain this? Have South Carolinians suddenly developed amnesia about their tipsy past? Has spiritous drink become a taboo subject south of South of the Border? For these dark and troubling questions I have no answer.
I cannot leave this subject without noting that the SCE, for all of its weird silence on booze, does have a couple of good alcohol-related articles. People my age will remember when liquor was sold in South Carolina at “red dot stores.” These are discussed, as is the dispensary system, Pitchfork Ben Tillman’s particular, not to say peculiar, contribution to prohibition in America. Until next time, Cheers.