I Gave Up Drinking Gin When I Was 12 - Part 2
I found this antique Gordon's Dry Gin bottle while on an antiquing excursion with my friend Susan Cassavaugh - she owns Art & Antiques in AuSable Forks, NY.
I Gave Up Drinking Gin When I Was 12 - Part 2
It was the summer of 1970, and I had just turned 12 years old. We were on our way to the Pelletier Family Reunion at Uncle Arthur and Aunt Bunny's house in Wiscasset, Maine. Before we arrived my Dad drove us to Wiscasset Harbor so we could see the two old sailing ships that were mired there in the mud. They were called Luther Little and Hesper - the latter named in reference to a Greek God. ( For years I thought the boat was called the Wreck of the Hesperus and that its demise was related to the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem by the same name.)
As we looked at the deteriorating shipwrecks my parents talked about how dangerous they were, especially since hippy kids were climbing aboard and partying on them. For me it was a moment of clarity as I finally understood what my mother meant when she would say, "Go comb you're hair - you look like the wreck of the Hesperus."
1970s Postcard of Hesper & Luther Little
Hesper and Luther Little were cargo ships built in MA, near the end of World War 1. The were used to transport lumber and coal for over a decade, but by the end of the 1920s, sailing schooners could not compete with modern steam ships. In 1932 they were auctioned off and purchased by a man who also owned a railroad in Maine.
The new owner had the ships towed into Wiscasset Harbor, where he intended to load them with lumber from northern Maine and transport it to Boston and NY. However, times were tough during the Great Depression and his plans never got off the ground. In 1940, the ships were brought ashore and left high and dry - never to sail the open seas again.
The Family Reunion
When we got to the reunion, most of the relatives were old - like my parents and grandparents. There were a few little kids, but nobody my age to hang around with. Then I saw my distant cousins - Ann Marie and Raymond - who had both turned into really cool teenagers since the last time I'd seen them.
Raymond and his friends were goofing off throwing a football around the yard so I didn't pay much attention to them. Ann Marie, on the other hand, made a huge impression on me. She was tall, tan and beautiful - especially with her long flowing hair and hip hugger bell bottom jeans. Not only was she super cool, she also had a couple of cool friends hanging out with her too.
I had never been around groovy girls so I tagged along with them trying to fit in - but it didn't work and they basically ignored me. Since I was bored out of my skull - I tried to think of something to do.....then it came to me in a stroke of genius. I would sneak around and spy on them from a distance. It wasn't like I was stalking them or anything - I just didn't want to miss out on what they were up to.
It wasn't long before I realized they were acting suspicious. They were all together in the living room whispering and giggling - it was obvious they were hatching some sort of secret plot. And they were all in on it ..... the boys and the girls. One thing I knew for sure, it was going to be a lot of fun because they really seemed excited.
It took a bit of crafty maneuvering, but I managed to nonchalantly blend in with the rest of the people in the house as I scoped out a good place to hide. Finally I tucked away where nobody could see me - beside the refrigerator and behind the tall waste basket. I camouflaged my opening with a broom. Then I waited.
Once all of the adults had gone outside the plan was set in motion. The girls were the "look-outs" and kept watch from the kitchen door in case anyone came toward the house. When the coast was clear the boys sprung into action.
From my hiding place I was able to sneak a peek around the corner of the dining room doorway. I saw Raymond and his buddies standing at the punch bowl. One of the guys reached inside his shirt and pulled out a pint sized glass bottle. He handed it to Ray, who poured about half of it into the punch - then, with all the guys egging him on, he dump the rest of it in. And just like that - the deed was done.
The girls came in from the kitchen and all of them tasted the punch - then they filled their cups and took off. I was alone in the house, and I was also very curious to find out what all the hoopla was about. I knew that "booze" was something grown-ups drank and I figured that must have been what they poured into the punch.
When curiosity got the best of me I went to the table, picked up one of the fancy little glass cups and ladled myself a sip. It tasted a little strange at first, but the sweetness of the punch made it easy to swallow. I filled my cup and drank it down.
It didn't take long before I began to feel a weird sensation - then a little euphoria - it was something I'd never experienced before. By this time the teens were long gone - but I didn't care. I decided to mosey on over to my grandparents who were sitting outside visiting with the relatives. I took a seat in a lawn chair next to them and settled in to listen as they reminisced about the good old days.
As I sat there I really began to enjoy the whole scene - the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there was a little breeze coming off the nearby reservoir that gently rustled the beautiful green leaves in the trees. Everything seemed right with the world as I just mellowed out there with the old folks.
When it was time to leave I really didn't feel like going anywhere. Nevertheless, I stood up and headed for the car with the rest of the family. During the ride home I felt pretty groggy so I drifted off to sleep in the back seat.
The next thing I knew I was awakened by a hideous pain throbbing in my head. It hit me like a ton of bricks and hurt so badly that I began to cry - and I hardly EVER cried. I told my parents that my head really hurt, but my Mom told me there wasn't anything they could do. When it got even worse I complained again and Mom said she would give me an aspirin as soon as we got home.
Then, after a little while, my mom asked me, "Did you drink any of that punch?"
When I sheepishly replied that I had, she said to my dad, "No wonder she's got a headache, Raymond spiked that punch with gin!"
Alas, it was my first hangover and it was a doozy. It cured me from ever wanting to drink "gin booze" again. To this day I've never had a Martini, Gin Rickey, Gin &Tonic, Singapore Sling, Tom Collins or Negroni. Raymond's spiked punch really packed a wallop on me! Not only did it knock me out, when I woke up I literally felt like the Wreck of the Hesperus!
The Poem - Fact and Fiction
For those who are curious - the poem called The Wreck of the Hesperus is a combination of fact and fiction, inspired by the tragic events of a violent storm that struck the New England seaboard on December 14 -15, 1839. From Cape Ann to Cape Cod, sailing vessels from all over the world headed for safety in the harbors and inlets of Massachusetts Bay.
All through the night the storm raged on, pounding Boston Harbor and the north shore with hurricane force winds and waves. Strong riptides tore ships from their moorings and pulled them out to sea where they capsized and sank, others were smashed together in the harbor and still others were tossed upon the rocky shoreline where they were shattered and scattered by the crashing waves.
In all 50 sailing vessels were destroyed, all their cargo lost and as many 50 crew members were drowned. There was a ship called Hesperus that had been moored in Boston Harbor and it was a complete loss - Longfellow borrowed that name for the ship in his poem.
Fact - Among the many vessels that sought refuge from the fury of the storm that day was a schooner from Wiscasset, called the Favorite. She dropped anchor in a cove off Gloucester, but that area was hit the hardest. The Favorite was smashed to pieces in a rocky cove called Norman's Woe. When daybreak came, people gathered along the shore to help rescue survivors and retrieve the dead. Among the wreckage they found a broken mast from the Favorite, with the frozen corpse of a woman bound to it.
Longfellow was so effected by the tragedy he could not sleep. He recorded in his diary that a ballad came to him in full stanzas during the night so he got out of bed and wrote it down. Within a matter of hours The Wreck of the Hesperus had been completely penned.
The Wreck of the Hesperus
It was the schooner Hesperus, That sailed the wintry sea; And the skipper had taken his little daughter, To bear him company. Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax, Her cheeks like the dawn of day, And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds, That ope in the month of May. The skipper he stood beside the helm, His pipe was in his month, And he watched how the veering flaw did blow The smoke now West, now South. Then up and spake an old Sailor, Had sailed to the Spanish Main, "I pray thee, put into yonder port, For I fear a hurricane. "Last night, the moon had a golden ring, And to-night no moon we see!" The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe, And a scornful laugh laughed he. Colder and louder blew the wind, A gale from the Northeast. The snow fell hissing in the brine, And the billows frothed like yeast. Down came the storm, and smote again The vessel in its strength; She shuddered and paused, like a frightened steed, Then leaped her cable's length. "Come hither! come hither! my little daughter, And do not tremble so; For I can weather the roughest gale That ever wind did blow." He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat Against the stinging blast; He cut a rope from a broken spar, And bound her to the mast. "O father! I hear the church-bells ring, O say, what may it be?" "'Tis a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!"-- And he steered for the open sea. "O father! I hear the sound of guns, O say, what may it be?" "Some ship in distress, that cannot live In such an angry sea!" "O father! I see a gleaming light O say, what may it be?" But the father answered never a word, A frozen corpse was he. Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark, With his face turned to the skies, The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow On his fixed and glassy eyes. Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed That saved she might be; And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave, On the Lake of Galilee. And fast through the midnight dark and drear, Through the whistling sleet and snow, Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe. And ever the fitful gusts between A sound came from the land; It was the sound of the trampling surf On the rocks and the hard sea-sand. The breakers were right beneath her bows, She drifted a dreary wreck, And a whooping billow swept the crew Like icicles from her deck. She struck where the white and fleecy waves Looked soft as carded wool, But the cruel rocks, they gored her side Like the horns of an angry bull. Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice, With the masts went by the board; Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank, Ho! ho! the breakers roared! At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach, A fisherman stood aghast, To see the form of a maiden fair, Lashed close to a drifting mast. The salt sea was frozen on her breast, The salt tears in her eyes; And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed, On the billows fall and rise. Such was the wreck of the Hesperus, In the midnight and the snow! Christ save us all from a death like this, On the reef of Norman's Woe!