David Bruce: Anecdotes About Alcohol

As a 13-year-old boy, Colin Powell attended a Catholic summer camp near Peekskill, New York. He and some other boys smuggled beer into the camp and hid it, but the beer was quickly discovered. At the camp meeting hall, the priest in charge talked to the campers, told them about the beer, and asked, “Who will own up like a man?” Colin was sure that no one had seen him and the other boys smuggle the beer into the camp, but he thought about the priest’s words and confessed. As a result of Colin’s example, two other guilty boys confessed as well. For their punishment, Colin and the other boys were sent home, but a priest called Colin’s parents and told them that Colin had owned up like a man and been a good example to the other guilty parties.

In 1910, when Mother Jones was 80 years old, she organized the female bottle washers in the breweries of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In return for scrubbing beer bottles for several hours, these women earned less than a dollar a day. When Mother Jones spoke to the owner of Milwaukee’s Blatz Brewery about improving the lives of the bottle washers, he dismissed her and did nothing. Therefore, Mother Jones went to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she talked 500,000 United Mine Workers into boycotting Milwaukee beer. Quickly, the brewery owners caved in — the bottle washers got paid more and their working conditions improved.

Today, professional golfers sometimes have golf psychologists to help them relax when they need to relax. The older players also had them, but they were of a different kind. Peter Jacobsen once interviewed Jackie Burke, who told him, “Yeah, Jimmy Demaret and I had a golf psychologist. His name was Jack Daniel’s. And we’d visit him in the bar after almost every round.” Jack must have been a good golf psychologist because as Mr. Jacobsen points out, both Mr. Burke and Mr. Demaret were inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.”

For a while, basketball player Chris Mullen of the Golden State Warriors had a drinking problem. In 1988, he missed some games to go into an alcohol rehabilitation program, and he worried about what the fans would do when he returned to playing. He shouldn’t have worried. The fans gave him a standing ovation when he returned, and he responded with 10 points, six assists, four rebounds, and four steals in 23 minutes to lead the Warriors to a 102-100 home victory over the Utah Jazz.

The 19-century actor George Frederick Cooke sometimes appeared onstage, drunk. In Richard III, he played the Duke of Gloucester, and at one point he staggered across the stage with his sword raised above his head. A member of the audience disliked the performance and shouted, “That’s not like the Duke of Gloucester!” Mr. Cooke stopped, faced the audience member, and shouted, “That’s not like a British auditor!” The act ended with applause (and a few hisses) for Mr. Cooke.

While Bo Jackson attended Auburn University, he played both baseball and football. During a baseball game at the University of Alabama, a beer truck was parked just beyond the fence around the outfield. Several people, including the driver, were standing by the truck, drinking beer and yelling insults at Mr. Jackson throughout the early innings of the game. Mr. Jackson stopped the insults by hitting a home run that bounced off the side of the truck.

A glass of beer made a huge difference in Lech Walesa’s life. In 1967, Mr. Walesa thought that he had time to get off a train in Gdansk and drink a glass of beer, but he was mistaken — the train pulled out of the station without him. Therefore, Mr. Walesa found work in Gdansk. His efforts with the Polish worker union Solidarity there led to his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

During Prohibition, many law enforcement officers were corrupt. One speakeasy in New York City was made with two entrances. After making a raid for the benefit of public relations, the federal agents would lock one door but not the other, with the result that as soon as the federal agents had left, the speakeasy was once again open for business.

American colonists became very angry when a tax on tea bought by Americans was passed by the British Parliament. The politician who proposed the new, unpopular tax was Member of Parliament Charles Townsend, who was also known as Champagne Charlie because he occasionally made speeches in Parliament when he was drunk.

When Jackie Bouvier married John F. Kennedy, she was supposed to be given away by her father, Jack Bouvier, but when she learned that he had been drinking, she declined to let him even come to the wedding. Stepping in at the last moment to give away the bride was Jackie’s stepfather, Hugh D. Auchincloss.

During the Gold Rush, drunken prospector James Finney, whom everyone called Old Virginny, staggered along a street in a town in Nevada one night and dropped a bottle of whiskey, smashing it. He then shouted, “I christen this ground Virginia.” Quickly, the town became known as Virginia City.

Being an oceanographer can have advantages. Jacques Cousteau once discovered a third-century B.C.E. Greek ship that had sunk while carrying a cargo of wine to Marseilles. Excavating the ship took five years, and at one point Mr. Cousteau was able to taste some 2,200-year-old wine.

At Babe Ruth’s funeral, the pallbearers included Yankee third baseman Joe Dugan and Yankee pitcher Waite Hoyt. The day was extremely hot, and Mr. Dugan told Mr. Hoyt, “I’d give $100 for an ice-cold beer.” Mr. Hoyt replied, “So would the Babe.”

Frank Sullivan once wrote this congratulatory telegram when his friend Joe Bryan, III, had a birthday: “I raise my glass and drink to you, and then dash it into the fireplace. It is made of plastic. I can retrieve it later.”

Stand-up comedian Geri Jewell has cerebral palsy, which causes her to walk awkwardly. In her stand-up routine, she says, “I don’t understand why people will go out of their way to drink, so they can walk like me.”

© 2016 by David Bruce, All Rights Reserved

David Bruce has written lots of collections of anecdotes, plus other books. Take a look at the list here:


Most of the anecdotes are funny; some are thought provoking.

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