SEVERAL READERS doubted the veracity of the Emory Wheel story about Michael Bellesiles’ bartending career that I link to below, noting that the only source is Bellesiles. Well, yeah, that’s not exactly ironclad sourcing these days, I guess, though it’s not as if I actually care about the underlying truth. I just thought it was amusing in light of my earlier remark that violence studies types should be tending bar.
Reader Andres Magnusson, writing from Iceland, however, does care:
Am I the only one finding the veracity of Bellesiles statements on his bartending suspect? Or should we just believe he singlehandedly saved England from the barbarous habits of quaffing mead and barring women from public houses?
“There, he introduced the English to a more international style of bartending — the traditional English pub culture centers around ale and beer, so bartenders have little knowledge of mixed drinks such as piña colada. Bellesiles also was one of the first managers to hire waitresses, prohibited by pub tradition until 1973.”
While it is true that most pubs lack that cosmopolitan touch, the drinking classes are by no means confined to ale and beer. Or pubs for that matter. And never have been.
Perhaps Bellesiles was the first to call his female staff waitresses, but barmaids have been there forever, not forgetting the landladies. . . . [Chaucer quote omitted] There is an unbroken chain of literary evidence — from Elizabethan taverns, through Victorian ginhouses, to the clubs of the 60s — of person of the female persuasion plying the drinks. Plus ça change…
Well, there you have it — though to be fair, my own experience suggests that it would be unfair to blame anyone interviewed by a student newspaper too much for what comes out of the process. I’ve been the subject of some real howlers.