In 1949, my husband and I were newlyweds living and working on a church college campus. Alcoholic beverages weren’t allowed there and because they weren’t allowed, we were even more tempted to buy some and try it out. We thought wine would be a good way to start so we could taste it and maybe even cook with it. We didn’t dare purchase wine locally because someone might see us. An opportunity presented itself at an out-of-town football game where the only place to park was right in front of a liquor store. Before the game started we wandered around inside the store, not knowing the differences from one bottle to another. We finally purchased a bottle of Manischewitz because of the pretty color and the beautiful container. We hid it in the car while attending the game and at home we hid it behind the milk in the refrigerator.
While trying to find out how to cook with it, we began to feel more uneasy with each passing day. Finally, my husband poured the beautiful red liquid into a Mason jar and labeled it “beet juice.”
With that done, he said, “Betty, we’re visiting my parents this weekend and before we get there, I need to remind you of a few things that’ll make the weekend go smoother.”
“You’re chatty, so you’ll have to be especially careful what you say while we’re there.”
“If it’s Sunday, never suggest we go to the movies.”
“But, Sunday’s usually movie day.”
“Not in my family.”
“And, don’t ever bring up the subject of liquor.”
“Okay, but I forgot why.”
“Doncha remember that story I told you?”
“Oh yeah … that story.”
That story happened when my husband was ten-years-old and his father was a country preacher. In the congregation one Sunday sat a stranger no one had seen before. He enjoyed the singing and listening to folks sharing their joys and sorrows and when the offering plate was passed someone said later that the man put a $10 bill in the plate. Then, Reverend Auchard’s rousing sermon must’ve taken the stranger over the edge. During the altar call when people were singing “Just As I Am Without One Plea,” he wept. While wiping his eyes with a handkerchief, several decided to go forward to the altar and he joined them. At the altar they kneeled and cried and prayed and got saved. Getting saved’ meant giving up a lot of sinful stuff, like making and drinking booze. The stranger was the county bootlegger.
The bootlegger’s salvation turned into a victory for church-goers and a disaster for drinkers. The man invited Reverend Auchard to his home where he pressed a button that opened a secret storage vault. The walls were lined with shelves laden with jugs of booze.
He said, “Reverend, I’d like your help in destroying all of this.”
Back and forth they went, hauling endless bottles outside where they dropped everything on the ground. When the shelves were empty, they smashed the jugs with hammers until the ground oozed with fermented dirt.
The convert beamed with joy at the feeling of being born again and assured Denny’s father that he would clean up the glass. Reverend Auchard couldn’t wait to get home to share the news with the family.
Both men thought that was it, but it wasn’t.
Thirsty folks in the county wanted to know who was responsible for such a “terrible thing happening. In no time at all, word spread over the rural party lines that Reverend Auchard’s sermon had turned the man around causing their only bootlegger to become an anti liquor kind of guy. Unfortunately, the angry drinkers in the county sought revenge. Things got scary for the Auchard family when gunshots broke their windows and a rattlesnake took up residence in their mailbox. Denny remembered riding in the back seat of their old car while reading a Big Little Book when shots came through the car windows causing Reverend Auchard to veer off the road and into a ditch. Denny and his father sustained a few bruises but the crash had caused Denny to accidentally rip his Big Little Book in half.
“That story” was the reason Denny did not want me bringing up the subject of cooking with wine while at his parents’ home. He feared that any talk of alcohol might revive bad memories for his parents.
In case you’re wondering what happened to the Manischewitz Denny had disguised as beet juice, I’ll tell about that in my next story.