The horrors of 1918 China, where the gin was too strong for highballs

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Like I said, I’m working on cleaning up my book manuscript this week. While doublechecking something in my notes on Alfred Cowles III, a Chicago Tribune heir and major figure in the rise of the efficient market hypothesis, I came across a paragraph I had written down from the Dec. 1918 issue of The Eavesdropper, the Yale Class of 1913 alumni magazine. The author was King Lee, a classmate of Cowles (Cole Porter was in the class too) who had apparently moved back to his native China and wasn’t too happy about it:

Very few or perhaps nobody know what awful conditions there can be in Whang Hi Duck. The people are all ignorant and immoral. Pigs sleep in their houses and snore terribly at night. They many time have fleas that poison everyone. All the young people get drunk, roll in the muddy streets and smoke opium. You see old men eating snakes gladly. Bandit robbers, led by a man named One Bum Lung, come down to the village to murder, rape, burn, destroy, kill and beat with loud cries. After this they go home. They carry the women and even the pigs with them. They have no doctors and no knowledge. Their gin is too strong for highballs. In brief, the whole country is rapidly becoming all shot to Hell!

I think living conditions have improved in China since then. The availability of quality gin certainly has. And this reminds me that one can find great things in old college alumni publications. Maybe we have the makings of a continuing series here. Or even a media empire.

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