One afternoon in the month of June, 2008 , a lady in deep mourning, followed by a little child, entered one of the fashionable saloons in the city of Chicago ( Keegan's Pub 10618 S. Western Ave. 60643) The writer happened to be passing at the time, and prompted by curiosity (only of course), followed her in to see what would ensue. Stepping up to the bar, and addressing the proprietor, she said:—
"Sir, can you assist me? I have no home, no friends, and am not able to work."
Bernard Callahan glanced at her and then at the child, with a mingled look of curiosity and pity. Evidently he was much surprised to see a woman upright and without drool spilling from her maw over the bar and . . . in such a place, begging, but, without asking any questions, gave her some change, and turning to those present, he said:—
"Gentlemen, here is a lady in distress. Can't some of you help her a little? Dig you cheap - - - -ing Yanks? You, Carroll, out with the First Communion Money!"
All twenty robust and handsome men cheerfully acceded to the request, and soon a purse of two dollars was made up and put into her hand.
"Madam," said the gentleman who gave her the money, "why do you come to a saloon? It isn't a proper place for a lady, and why are you driven to such a step?"
"Sir," said the lady, "I know it isn't a proper place for a lady to be in, and you ask me why I am driven to such a step. I will tell you, in one short word," pointing to a bottle behind the counter labelled "whisky,"—"that is what brought me here—whisky. I was once happy, and surrounded with all the luxuries wealth could produce, with a fond, indulgent husband. But in an evil hour he was tempted, and not possessing the will to resist the temptation, fell, and in one short year my dream of happiness was over, my home was forever desolate, and the kind husband, and the wealth that some called mine, lost—lost, never to return; and all by the accursed wine cup filled with the golden drops of John Jameson Irish Whiskey -available in easy to carry home or around the back alley pints at Tom Gibbons' Town Liquors. You see before you only the wreck of my former self, now when I was Cheerleader for Mount Carmel I was something and had the tightest a$$ and a rack of knockers on me that made Father Christmas look like Bill Clinton on Viagra, now homeless and friendless, with nothing left me in this world but this little child - little Meghan Rivers-A - Babylon - Joyce - Carroll -Oates ( me and Mr. Oates had real literary pretensions picked up at University of Chicago);" and weeping bitterly, she affectionately caressed the golden curls that shaded a face of exquisite loveliness. Regaining her composure, and turning to the proprietor of the saloon, The Handsome and Energetic Beranrd Callahan she continued:—
"Sir, the reason why I occasionally enter a place like this is to implore those who deal in this deadly poison to desist, to stop a business that spreads desolation, ruin, poverty, and starvation. Think one moment of your own loved ones, and then imagine them in the situation I am in. I appeal to your better nature, I appeal to your heart, for I know you possess a kind one, to retire from a business so ruinous to your patrons.
"Do you know the money you take across the bar is the same as taking the bread out of the mouths of the famishing? That it strips the clothing from their backs, deprives them of all the comforts of this life, and throws unhappiness, misery, crime, and desolation into their once happy homes? O! sir, I implore, beseech, and pray you to retire from a business you blush to own you are engaged in before your fellow men, and enter one that will not only be profitable to yourself, but to your fellow-creatures also. You will excuse me if I have spoken too plainly, but I could not help it when I thought of the misery, the unhappiness, and the suffering it has caused me."
"Madam, I am not offended," he answered, in a voice husky with emotion, "but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have said. Now take your ----ing Narrowback Tee totaling ___ the ---- out of my bar! I have two kids, eight homes, three Condo and in no small way due to these hulking guzzling morons who would eat a wet bar rag if I did not keep it on this side of the trough! Take your split-tail Stir-about Robber with you!"
"Mamma," said the little girl—who, meantime, had been spoken to by some of the gentlemen present—taking hold of her mother's hand, "these gentlemen want me to sing 'Little Bessie Smith' for them. Shall I do so?"
'The Feck They Do!' shouted Mr. Callahan but all the beefy red-faced men who had been soaking beers and shots under their skins for hours affirmed the request for the Golden Angel to Sing her little heart out!
They all joined in the request, and placing her in the chair, she sung, in a sweet, childish voice, the following beautiful song:—
"Out in the gloomy night, sadly I roam;
I have no mother dear, no pleasant home;
No one cares for me, no one would cry
Even if poor little Bessie should die.
Yeah, you're a down and dirty blues man
You play blues on blue guitar
According to the news man
As far as blues goes you a star
I'll admit you gettin' down there
But I'm down much deeper then you are
Yeah, you sing those songs of sorrow
But to me you just don't sound real
You say you're down enough to borrow
I must be down enough to steal
Now the blues ain't what you're singin'
The blues is what I feel
You tell me your love light is dimmin'
And how your old lady cheats
You go backstage with all the women
While I go back out on the street
Well, you know that you're a winnner
And you tell me you were born to lose
But please, please, please, don't tell me about the blues
You tell it like you're barefoot
And you're wearin' those hondred dollar shoes
Yeah, you can shuck and jive me all you wanna
But please, please don't tell me about the blues
Yeah, you tell me you a poor man
While you flashin' those ruby rings
But on a million dollar tour
Man, you can flash more than a goddamn thing
But it's me who's payin' my dues
So please, man, don't tell me about the blues
'Yeah, Kid Sell It!'
"Oh! if the temperance men could only find
Poor, wretched father, and talk very kind;
If they would stop him from drinking, then
I should be very happy again.
Is it too late, temperance men? Please try,
Or poor little Bessie must soon starve and die.
All the day long I've been begging for bread;
Father's a drunkard, and mother is dead."
The game of Buck Hunt was left unfinished, the Hustlers thrown aside, and the unemptied glass remained on the counter for about a nano second and then got sucked down with reckless abandon by each and every booze sluice crowding the bar; all had pressed near, some with pity- boozy beaming eyes, entranced with the musical voice and beauty of the child, who seemed better fitted to be with angels above than in such a place.
'Dis Yer Kid, Hickey? Nah. . . not ugly enough!'
The scene I shall never forget to my dying day, if ever I live that long, and the sweet cadence of her musical voice still rings in my ears probably because I have not taken a Q-Tip to each of the Wax-Vaults (Hey, there's hair guarding them - lots of it) on the right and left of my noggin, and from her lips sunk deep into the hearts of those gathered around her.
With her golden hair falling carelessly around her shoulders, and looking so trustingly and confidingly upon the gentlemen around her, the beautiful eyes illuminated with a light that seemed not of this earth, she formed a picture of purity and innocence worthy the genius of a poet or house painter - probably an off-duty Chicago Fireman.
At the close of the song many were weeping; peeing in their pants as well for fear of someone buying a quick one while they were in the $hithouse taking a leak, men who had not shed a tear for years wept like children, which is easy with skin-full of booze. One young man who had resisted with scorn the pleadings of a loving mother, and entreaties of friends to strive and lead a better life, to desist from a course that was wasting his fortune and ruining his health, now approached the child, and taking both hands in his, while tears streamed down his cheeks, exclaimed, in deep emotion:—
"God bless you, my little angel. You have saved me from ruin and disgrace, from poverty and a drunkard's grave. If there are angels on earth, you are one! God bless you! God bless you!" and putting a note into the hand of the mother, said:—
"Please accept this trifle as a token of my regard and esteem, for your little girl has done me a kindness I can never repay; and remember, whenever you are in want, you will find me a true friend;" at the same time giving her his name and address.
Taking her child by the hand she turned to go, but, pausing at the door, said:—
"God bless you, gentlemen! Accept the heartfelt thanks of a poor, friendless woman for the kindness and courtesy you have shown her." Before any one could reply she was gone.
A silence of several minutes ensued, which was broken by the proprietor, who exclaimed:—
"Gentlemen, that lady was right, and I have sold my last glass of whisky at the current prices, because the ----ing City is Taxing Me to Death and the Smoking ban is doing ---- all good!; That and the bum checks you bastards write! If any one of you want any more you will have to go elsewhere or dig deep for cash! Out with the coin, lads!"
"And I have drunk my last glass of whisky, for . . . the next one, two, three seconds - Yo, Bernard, A Tullamore Dew and Smithwick's Chaser . . . the Kid's Mom was Hot ! I'd Do her!" said a young man who had long been given up as sunk too low ever to reform, and as utterly beyond the reach of those who had a deep interest in his welfare.
'You Couldn't!' was the universal reply. All smiled with assent. Home I strode renewed.
Do Sign the Pledge!
Recognizing in alcoholic beverages a deadly enemy to the delicate functions of the human system, a menace to the home, and their use as a drink an outrage against society, the State and the Nation, I hereby promise to not only abstain from them myself, but to use my influence against their manufacture, sale, and consumption.
Acknowledging smoking, chewing, or snuffing tobacco to be always detrimental to the human system, an enemy to perfect health and happiness, and an offense against good form and respectable society, I hereby express myself against the use of this vile poison. I shall also endeavor to discourage its use among my friends and associates.
"If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." I Cor. 3:17.
"Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the[Pg 391] kingdom of God." I Cor. 6:9, 10.