AM I THE ONLY ONE. . . . . . . . . . . . who remembers their first experience with alcohol

By: Donna Hale Chandler

I was just 17 years old when I married my high school sweetheart and a year later saw him off to Vietnam.  We grew up in a small town in Kentucky where we were expected to go to church twice on Sunday and every evening if there happened to be a revival in town.  The entire county where we lived was ‘dry’, meaning no alcohol was sold or served anywhere.  Beer and cocktails were not part of my life and as my personal world was so small, I had no idea that this way of life was not the norm.

When my husband was discharged from the Army and returned to the states, we immediately moved to Michigan where he had a job waiting.  We were excited to start our new married life and once our meager furnishings that consisted of a bed purchased from the Salvation Army store, a small Montgomery Ward’s TV and 2 lawn chairs were set up in our tiny three-room upstairs apartment, I ventured out to the grocery store to stock our shelves with the staples.

Much to my surprise as I explored each aisle, I found beer – all kinds and brands of beer – right out there on the grocery shelf for everyone to see and anyone to purchase.  I was amazed and rushed home to spout all the details of what I had found to my husband.  Surprisingly to me, he was not astounded by this discovery at all.

I’ve always been a quick study and it didn’t take long for me to learn that drinking beer or having a cocktail did not cause the heavens to open up and lightning come down to strike me dead, to suffer in hell for all eternity.  The opportunity for me to personally indulge came at Christmas, 1968, at a party that Ford Motor Company had for their hourly employees.  I was so excited to see how this part of the world ‘partied’ and I knew there would be ALCOHOL there.

We went with another couple, Carol and Gary, both native Michiganders and both thought my naivety quite humorous.  I remember distinctly that Carol and I both ordered a Sloe Gin Fizz.  It was a pretty red drink and went down like Kool-aide.   Soon we were both giggling like 10-year-olds and having a magnificent time.  Everything was wonderful and everything was funny.

As the evening went on and the gaiety continued, we strolled off, rather unsteadily to find the lady’s room.  As soon as we walked in, we heard a voice calling out, “I need some help.  Please.”  At first, we were frozen in our tracks.  Did we really hear someone calling for help or was this just another bit of proof that perhaps we’d better switch to drinking water?  But no, we heard the voice call out to us again.  The sound was coming from one of the bathroom stalls.  We peeked under the stall door and sure enough there were feet, although something didn’t seem quite right.

Carol was the brave one who pushed the stall door open to find a very large, very drunk young woman stuck between the toilet and the stall wall, and of course with her underwear around her knees.  She had managed to miss the toilet seat and plop down into the air, wedging herself securely.  We were both far from sober ourselves and decided that this was absolutely the funniest thing we had seen all night.  In between our bursts of laughter and trying to pull the woman up, she asked us to please go find her husband, James.

Holding our splitting sides we laughed our way back to our table, having forgotten all about the purpose of our visit to the bathroom and told our husbands what we had found.  They were evidently more sober that either of us and seemed not to see the humor in the poor woman’s situation.  They left us with Coke’s to drink and went in search of the Husband James.  When we saw our guys plus another strange man heading for the woman’s bathroom, we were quick to follow.  We wanted to see how they were going to dislodge the unfortunate woman.

There was much grunting and groaning from James and lots of crying from the young woman.  At last James dislodged is wife and much to the disappointment of Carol and me, there was no loud ‘pop’ like a cork from a champagne bottle.  Our little group turned to leave James and his wife when she suddenly passed out cold, proving that the drama of the evening was not yet over.  To his credit James laid his lady as gently as possible onto the floor, arranged her clothing more modestly, left us to guard the bathroom door and went in search of his friends.

In the blink of an eye, two more men were there to help James with his dilemma.  The three of them got her up, placed an arm over the shoulder of the two helpers and out of the bathroom they came, heading toward the entrance as James called to them that he’d run ahead and bring his car to the front door.  Sounds pretty easy, right?  Not so.

Carol and I had maintained a reasonable amount of decorum and were beginning to feel a bit ashamed at how much we had laughed at the poor woman.  That is until we saw the men start down the stairs with her.  They each had a right grip on their burden and as they began their decent the woman’s feet and shins were dragging down the stairs behind them – bump, bump, bump, with each step they took.  This sent us into another fit of laughter erasing all feeling of shame that almost invaded out conscience.

As a side note, I was the only one of our groups that had to go to work the next morning.  I awoke with a blinding headache (duh), put on the very same clothes and I wore to the party and somehow made it through the day, hoping that karma was not paying attention to my behavior the night before.


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