Maybe the biggest problem with our liquor laws is how we dress
When it comes to most important topics, I'm a little like Will Rogers. All I know is what I read in the newspaper.
This applies to a number of subjects, including politics, weather, sports, even good old Hollywood gossip. But the other day a new one came up. Last week, I learned in that other leading newspaper that circulates in our community (with a name that sort of rhymes with 'more ammonia'), that it was the 75th birthday of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Of course, we call it the OLCC for short, and many of us have sort of a love-hate relationship with this branch of the state's governmental tree.
Why we have a state agency devoted to regulating alcohol in Oregon is one of life's great mysteries. We'd rather die than have socialized medicine, and we're downright paranoid about gun control, but by God we want a bureaucratic component to our buying and selling of intoxicating liquids.
I suppose it's because of our long history of meddling in other people's affairs and a desperate desire to legislate morality whenever possible (what with our Puritan beginnings and all) that we decided back in 1933, when Prohibition finally bit the dust, to create a state agency to control the flow of booze.
The motivation for this, of course, is exactly the same as the reason we don't allow the possession, use, buying or selling of recreational marijuana: We simply do not like it when people knowingly make themselves dizzy.
And so we do what we've always done: We make laws against the things we don't like and form a commission to oversee the enforcement of those laws.
Now here's the really hilarious thing about the story in the paper, which I read in its entirety in the name of research for this opus you're reading now. It was accompanied by a five-column photograph of the inside of an Oregon liquor store in the 1930s. I know that's when it was taken because the caption beneath the picture read, 'An Oregon liquor store, circa 1930s.'
Yeah, I know, the caption writer was up late that night coming up with that one. But the really wonderful thing about the photo was the fact that it showed four grown-up people - three men and a woman, ranging in age from 40-something to perhaps the 60s - standing behind a long counter, staring sternly out through customer windows apparently modeled after your typical bank, wearing (and I am not making this up) white lab coats.
Yes, lab coats. Like doctors - or at the very least, like pharmacists or chemical researchers.
The men wore neckties and everybody had on nametags. And behind them were rows and rows of bottles containing dark liquids which I took to be mostly different kinds of whiskey.
I never see people who look like this when I'm in the liquor store, at least not behind the counter. It's usually a normal, everyday kind of person, somebody who could be a college student or a housewife or something. Hardly ever somebody who looks like Mr. Gower from 'It's a Wonderful Life.'
It's true, of course, that this kind of transformation has happened in all fields. Newspaper reporters no longer wear double-breasted suits and fedoras, and they don't yank out their cigars to bark, 'What's the lowdown on this caper, chief?'
Even doctors don't wear those white coats much anymore - although they still dress that way on TV when they're trying to convince us to try a new drug for intestinal problems or urinary incontinence.
'I'm not a real doctor,' says the square-jawed guy removing his glasses and squinting into the camera, 'but if I were, I'd really want you to inject Botox into your wrinkly face so you could stop being so doggoned unattractive.'
No, these four jokers behind the OLCC counter (circa 1930s) look for all the world to be standing by to prescribe some Jim Beam or Wild Turkey for what ails you, and it also appears they are about to embark on their chosen career following several years of rigorous education and training ('Here, just drink a bottle of this and call me in the morning').
You know, the more I think about it, the more I believe we'd be better off if people did dress up a little bit for ordinary things. I think it would class things up a bit if we wore suits and hats to sporting events and concerts.
As a matter of fact, it might not be such a bad requirement if, in order to buy a bottle of booze at an OLCC store, you had to have on a well-adjusted necktie that doesn't clash with the rest of your outfit.
So there. Stick that in your state liquor laws.
Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.