Raising The Bar...
The discussion is rife again about raising the legal drinking age in this country from 18 years to 21 years, many arguments being put forward, for and against. I'm in the "for" camp.
When I was a teenager one had to be 21 years old to legally drink. At the age of 16, I tried scotch for the first time, straight, in a tea cup of all things! I was at a 'gathering' (it was more of a gathering than a party) with some friends in the home of another. They were all a few years older than I was, at the time (and still are. We were sitting around in his lounge-room listening to jazz records. I commenced my working life as a shy, young legal secretary with a law firm in Gympie, mid-year of my Junior-level in High School. I was 15 going on 16. I made new friends upon starting work as most of my school friends remained at school.
Life in those days was filled with parties, dances, record hops, balls and weekends surfing at the coast. Alcohol was present but it wasn't a major force in our lives. I drank illegally, but never abused it, one reason being the fact that I was under-age. I respect the law, even though I was breaking it!
Before going to balls, there were always pre-ball parties. Often times our ball party met up at the Empire Hotel in Mary Street. The hotel was just a few doors down from the office in which I worked. I'm sure the hoteliers knew how old I was, particularly as just about every week, sometimes more than once a week, a photo of me would be in the local paper, 'The Gympie Times'. This pictorial invasion of my privacy occurred because a fellow I worked with was the local town photographer in his spare time. He took photos for submission to the paper, wedding photographs, debutantes, coming-of-age, anniversaries...you name it, he took it. And when he ran out of ideas, he took pictures of me...me, off to the coast for the weekend...me, buying a new pair of shoes...me, watching the grass grow (during the drought, watching paint dry!)...anything he could think of, he 'shot' me because I was 'there' and the paper needed space filled! When I was 18 years old, I was one of four local girls who were entered into the "Miss Australia" Quest. We were 18 at the time and received quite an amount of publicity in the town. Our ages were out there for all to see. I'm telling you this to help paint a picture of those days.
My belief is, even though we drank, we behaved ourselves because we *were* under-age. I know I didn't want to draw attention to myself. I knew I wasn't supposed to be drinking, so if I got into trouble because of that, the doors would be shut at home. I wouldn't be allowed out again! My friends and I never abused alcohol. "Binge-drinking" wasn't part of our lives.
The 'Reef Hotel', as it was known in those days, on top of the hill at Noosa Heads, was a wonderful place to congregate. It was the 'watering-hole' of the Noosa Heads lifesavers, who were a tempting draw-card, of course! Many a Friday night or Saturday night was spent out on the wide deck enjoying the sea breezes and a few drinks...and the view! Mostly, though, we were more interested in going to the 'record hops' and 'hopping' the nights away, than drinking.
The point I'm making is, because the law said we had to be 21 years of age to drink legally, when we did drink under age, we respected the law (that sounds double-edged, doesn't it?) and rather than draw attention to ourselves, we behaved.
The way it is today with the legal age being 18 years, kids are drinking at younger and younger ages. They're not mature enough to know 'right' from 'wrong'. In far too many cases, they feel they have to compete with their peers and within a blink of an eye, everything gets out of control. Our newspapers show too many stories of young people injured or killed from alcohol-related incidents. Of course, in today's young society they have the demon drugs tempting them as well. It is a lethal cocktail!