Friday, June 18, 2010

Watseka Beer

On June 1st, most Iowa newspapers ran stories about an interesting drunk-driving arrest. Unfortunately, after a Memorial Day weekend, that’s not unusual. Fortunately, no one was hurt. This arrest probably only made the news because the twenty year old driver was naked. He’d been chugging beer all day. Being a smart young man, he took his car out at - inebriated and wearing his glory suit.
The story reminded me of some of the tales a few (okay, many) of you sent me. Particularly those stories I received after I sent the Scotchmon's and Watseka Police Department photos. It’s amazing how many of you remember Watseka police officers “confiscating” (not pouring out) your beer.  You didn’t have to be a Starsky & Hutch fan to know it wasn’t going to an evidence locker.
From your emails, I know there were many of you who didn't indulge. Your emails also showed me there were more than I remembered who did.  To the latter, don't worry. I'm not naming names and I'm not writing to your children.  To the former, I’m not condoning the behavior.
I’ll accept responsibility for my mistakes. But, I am letting the rest of you off the hook. To the extent you did any underage beer drinking, I blame it on the very creative brewery industry marketing of the 1970s. 
Before the Swedish Bikini Team, Weiner Dog Racing and Spuds MacKenzie, there were TV commercials that made people equate beer with meaningful things.
Who didn’t want to “go for the gusto!” and have a Schlitz?  You knew if you drank Hamm’s you could train a grizzly bear, right? Who didn’t want to say ”Budweiser” and say it all?  Come on, you know you “had a taste” for a Stroh’s.  Was LITE better because it tasted great, or because it was less filling?  Did you want to escape our flat county and “head for the Mountains” by drinking Busch beer?
Yeah, in the 70s the beer companies targeted a youthful audience.  The proof was in the packaging. Did you ever see an adult drinking an 8 ounce bottle of beer?  Some of you remember those little Miller packs, don’t you?
It wasn’t too hard to get beer. There was an underground railroad supplying it to underage drinkers in Watseka – tickets to ride the train were cheap.
Beer was great for lowering teenage inhibition. I’m not just talking about being able to talk in public. For specific instances of conduct, I’ll leave you to your memories - for the most part.   However, I’ll generally mention a few that some of you sent back to me:
-         Climbing over the Watseka Pool fence at night and swimming (naked?)? Beer related.
-         The hole in the football field (it’s too good not come up again)? Beer.
-         A few hapless, non-injurious fights? Beer related.
-         A young couple waking up to find themselves locked on the roof of a local business? Beer, definitely beer.
-         Scaling the Water Towers with spray paint? Beer.
-         All kinds of Gusto-seeking things we hope our kids neither learn about nor do? A lot of beer.

I know, some of us are embarrassed about things we did while drinking. I say - let it go. To the best of my knowledge, none of you ever drove drunk . . . while naked.
Beer is a cultural thing. There are some places people just serve and drink beer. I remember it showing up in Legion Park and at a few parties. I remember there being beer at Senior Skip day at Tim’s and the senior party at Karen’s.
If it hadn’t been for that genius driving drunk and naked last week, I’d have forgotten all about Watseka and beer. In the great scheme of things, beer was a mere accessory, like a belt or hat.
Until I read that article - I remembered fun, hanging out with a bunch of young cool people, and things being a whole lot simpler. That stuff would have been great without beer.
In a way, I envy those of you who knew there was Gusto (and there was plenty) in Iroquois County for those with a zero blood alcohol content.
All I know - beer or no beer, there wasn’t any better place to be a kid.