Arts & Culturewilliam orten carlton ort

William Orten Carlton = ORT

What to write about this week? So many thoughts; so few columns… and now that we’re going back to bi-weekly, semi-monthly publication, I will write half as many columns. I DO promise not to make them twice as long to compensate, okay?

Let’s talk politricks for awhile. That’s a hot potato, and I’m in a mashing mood. First, some issues ago, I wrote about (Miss) Jeannette Rankin. Turns out that Montana awarded women the right to vote in 1914, and that this event was the turning point that made Miss Rankin (Please! She chose to be addressed as “Miss” instead of “Ms.”) become interested in opting for political office. She was not the first woman elected official, however: since Wyoming was the first state to allow women the right to vote (in 1869), there were plenty of women elected officials in that state before 1900. Wyoming even elected a woman governor in 1924. But the fact that women didn’t win the right to vote in all states universally until Federal statutes were enacted brings about another question of inequity that I’ll address next.

Let’s go for the worst-case scenario… let’s say that some hostile nation bombed New York City off the face of the earth, utterly unprovoked. We go to war (obviously)  to defend our own territory. Who goes? The 18-year-olds up to 21-year-olds, mostly: in a case of that sort, there wouldn’t be enough enlisted folks and ready reserves… it would be up to the youth of America to fight the war. This means that people would be, in a worse-case situation, going off to fight for our country, but these same people, in time of peace, couldn’t legally buy a drink anyplace in our country but Hawaii!!! (New Orleans would probably sell them one, but not absolutely legally.) Furthermore, these folks wouldn’t have to vote in anyplace but Georgia and Kentucky until the voting age was lowered by Federal action in the last few years… amazing, but true.

I think back to the words of Georgia’s “Fighting Governor,” Ellis Gibbs Arnall: he was governor from 1943 until 1947, i believe. He’s alive now, but ailing and in his middle 80’s. Arnall was the architect of many of our most progressive laws and of Georgia’s being the first state to give 18-year-olds the right to vote (in 1945); he himself wrote the bulk of our “New” Constitution, also adopted in 1945. “If someone is old enough to vote in time of war,” Arnall opined, “then he or she is old enough to vote in any and every election, and to my mind is old enough to be able to buy and drink red whiskey in every city and county in Georgia any time they want to, seven days a week.” Ironically, his hometown of Newnan allows only beer and wine sales to this day; folks are compelled to buy packaged liquor in Palmetto in Fulton County or to go to Luthersville, Peachtree City, or Senoia. There are cocktail lounges in Peachtree City, but I have no idea how swinging they are or aren’t , choked as they must be with thirsty Newnanites forced to crawl what?—13miles?— down two-lane blacktops to cure their ills… they probably don’t have a lot of swinging energy left after  that sort of trek.

Arnall was—and is—a church member; Presbyterian, I believe. But his point was well-taken: it isn’t the church’s business, statutorially. He pretty much believed that Sunday sales prohibition is a violation of separation of church and state, and I tend to agree. Just like a small county in Tennessee that has about a 70 percent Seventh-Day Adventist population and which allows stores to open on Sunday and close on Saturday specifically so state law cannot interfere if  enacted, I am not a fan of so-called “blue laws” of any kind. Until recently, South Carolina allowed convenience stores to open on Sunday but not major grocery stores; some places in Virginia still do not allow sales of anything on Sunday except, ironically, beer and cigarettes!! One of the largest malls in the Commonwealth of Virginia cannot open on Sunday due to local option prohibition of business that has yet to be repealed. When I lived in Richmond, Va. in 1979/80, the city allowed Sunday operation, but Henrico County did not, necessitating folks to drive into town for anything but the barest necessities. This meant that the huge mall on Parham Road didn’t open either. Henrico County voted recently to allow blue laws to drop, and not a moment too soon for my taste. I found it rather humourous then, pathetic in retrospect now.

I’m not knocking Sunday closing per se: I’m just saying that I’m opposed to anything along those lines on a statutorial basis. Let Sunday operation be one’s free choice, then. One of my favorite places for a meal and/or a cold beer on a hot day in Central Florida closes on Sunday because the owner simply wants to take the day off. He chooses Sunday not because of anything in his religious beliefs, but because he imagines it as his slowest day and has no particular desire to begin opening on Sundays to find out. He is an elder in the Presbyterian church, but if asked will gladly tell anyone who’ll listen that it isn’t the church’s decision nor God’s, it’s his and his alone. “If I had any moral objection to running my business, I certainly wouldn’t be in this line of business,” he concludes. Florida counties decide for themselves whether to allow beer and/or liquor sales on Sundays; some areas have never had closing laws of any type. With Santa Rosa County voting “wet” finally back a couple of years ago, Florida is now down to six “dry” counties: Enough about Florida; now back to my original premise.

Let’s hope that worst-case scenario never comes up. I’d hate it I had to be a part of a country that had to deal with the dilemma of prohibiting servicemen and -women fighting in a war on our shores the right to take a legal off-the-base drink. Now that women have been statutorially made equal as have blacks, it’s time to address the inequity of ageism in American politics. I am firmly a believer that 18-year-olds ought to be able to execute contracts legally, too, but that’s for another column at another time.

While you’re at it, if you’re 18 out there, go down to the court house or Athens Regional Library or Tate Center and register to vote. You have no right to complain and criticize the system if you refuse to take part in it.

Sometime in the future, I’ll tell you about Georgia’s 32 locally-owned telephone companies. The smallest two are in Waverly Hall (958 telephones) and Glenwood (704 telephones), and as far as I know, neither is for sale at any price. Sometime I’ll also do some research (by going there, natch) and tell you about the Sandersville Railroad and maybe a few other short locally-owned railroad lines. Right now, like the Gainesville Midland Railroad, I’m out of steam. With my mention of The Waverly Hall Telephone Company, I only have to tell you about (30) others.