Potent Potables on the Parallel
There are, it appears, different and urgent winds blowing in the Canadian armed forces concerning the consumption of alcohol. Problems associated with heavy drinking apparently now account for 80 per cent of the costs the Defence department incurs due to "maladaptive lifestyles." Consequently, new rules now ban Happy Hours and drinking contests in military clubs and messes. Do you remember chug-lug and boat races? Further, counseling is available and required for identified problem drinkers and, in general, the role of alcohol in the social life of the armed forces is being deliberately de-emphasized.
Who would disagree with this enlightened policy? It certainly is consistent with the messages the public has been saturated with for the past few years. The Drinker has been placed on guard and is very familiar with the hazards present in breathalyzer tests and the R.I.D.E. program. It is not too surprising that the armed forces have gone to a prudent position and, perhaps years ago, we should have noticed the handwriting on the wall when the navy discontinued a daily issue of the sailor's beloved rum ration.
difficult, if not impossible, for many of the
who had the
us who, against orders, tried the Korean home-made spirits kept in
a crock in farmhouse kitchens will not even yet forget its fragrance,
taste and kick. Surely some of you have experienced unsteadiness and
perhaps a fall into a moonlit rice paddy (or worse) after a night foray
into the boondocks!
There was great rejoicing when a
small amount (two bottles per man?) was issued to the Canadians courtesy
of Labatt's in commemoration of fifty years of brewing. At times, we
had to make do with English brew. I remember a Simmonds going well with
a Capstan or a Lucky.
and Canadian officers and NCOs had access to a ration of liquor at a
very reasonable price. I think Gordon's Gin was ninety cents a bottle.
Some small fortunes were made, for those times, for
"bootlegging" to our American allies at an outrageous mark-up. I affirm that I was in no way involved but can now serve
as an informed observer.
Rum in a
water bottle on a freezing day, Gordon's Gin mixed with Rose's Lime
Cordial or Orange Squash in a mess tin, and barely cool Asahi recovered
from the pits we used to dig under tent floors are typical of our liquid
At our KVA conventions, reunions
and unit meeting, I have noticed that the vets haven't changed their
habits too much, except in degree. They are more cautious and reserved,
befitting their age, and most have profited considerably from life's
lessons in the last thirty-odd years.
the conduct of military operations in the future and the questions about
alcohol which naturally rise? I can't really imagine the regimental
medical officer laying on a ration of a non-alcoholic restorative
drink for all ranks after the unit has for a few days experienced a
nasty bit of weather. Will there be a Coca-Cola issue in hot
climates? How will the men relax? Perhaps they will belly up to the
canteen bar with, "I'll have Seven-Up on the rocks" and,
"Make mine apple juice!" If there are future wars and the
veterans have reunions, will they raise their glasses of soft drinks on
high to toast fallen comrades?
not take me too seriously in this little look at the way we were. No
offence is intended. Because of the war, the free and easy attitudes
prevalent regarding alcohol in the military and the uncertainty of our
lives in those times, we acted accordingly.
now look around ourselves at common lifestyles in the eighties, we were
not really so bad, were we?