Bits we underlined in “They’re Open!‘, 1950

The cover of They're Open, 1950.

Every time we think we’ve at least heard of every substantial book about beer or pubs, a new-to-us specimen pops up. This weekend, we came across They’re Open! by Ronald Wilkinson and Roger Frisby, with illustrations by Neville Main, from 1950.

It’s fluff, real­ly – the kind of thing the chaps at the golf club would buy for anoth­er chap known to like the odd pint of bit­ter on the occa­sion of his birth­day. Still, it’s a reveal­ing time cap­sule, as throw­aways often are.

The gim­mick, as with T.E.B. Clarke’s What’s Yours? from 12 years ear­li­er, is that the book claims to be a man­u­al for those keen to learn the mys­te­ri­ous ways of the pub:

The stu­dent should on no account embark upon the the­o­ry of Seri­ous Drink­ing with­out first paus­ing to con­sid­er cer­tain fun­da­men­tal con­cepts and gen­er­al prin­ci­ples… It should be clear­ly under­stood from the out­set that the sub­ject must not be approached in a light or friv­o­lous vein…

Anoth­er sec­tion from the intro­duc­tion is prob­a­bly meant to be a joke but it’s hard to tell from this side of the real ale rev­o­lu­tion, when we’re used to this kind of thing being uttered in earnest:

It may strike the scep­tic as odd that the word ‘seri­ous’ is applied in this con­text. How­ev­er, the word is not cho­sen at ran­dom. It is, in fact, the key­stone of the whole arch of Alco­hol­o­gy. For the Seri­ous Drinker drinks not to be socia­ble; nei­ther does he drink to drown his sor­rows, nor for want of any­thing bet­ter to do. Above all, it can­not be too strong­ly impressed upon the stu­dent that drunk­en­ness in any shape or form must nev­er be the aim, nor indeed must it be the con­comi­tant of Seri­ous Drink­ing. The Seri­ous Drinker drinks on a ratio­nal basis. He drinks for no oth­er rea­son that that he likes drink­ing. One would nev­er ask a stamp-col­lec­tor why he is seri­ous about col­lect­ing stamps…

This intro­duc­to­ry sec­tion also sets out the book’s stall on the issue of women and beer:

In all the authors’ expe­ri­ence, they have nev­er encoun­tered a woman who held forth even the remotest promise of suc­cess­ful devel­op­ment into a Seri­ous Drinker. Her very make-up pre­vents it. Charm­ing, lov­able, fas­ci­nat­ing as women may seem, all attempts on their parts to become Seri­ous Drinkers have so far been but emp­ty threats.

(That’s me told. – Jess.)

Bottled beer.

There’s dis­ap­point­ing­ly lit­tle about beer in the book, of course, beyond a warn­ing against for­eign beer, where for­eign has the broad­est pos­si­ble def­i­n­i­tion: “For the Seri­ous Drinker is a drinker of beer, and beer is only to be found in Eng­land.”

There is a chap­ter on what to wear in the pub: thick-soled shoes to raise you above the saw­dust, with beer-coloured uppers to con­ceal stains; and drink­ing trousers with expand­ing waist­line and a deep left-hand pock­et for change.

The bit that real­ly grabbed our atten­tion, with 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub still ring­ing in our brains, is an attempt to clas­si­fy dif­fer­ent types of pub:

The Road­house… Con­struc­tion in con­crete… Design fre­quent­ly of the pseu­do-Tudor or bogus-rus­tic…

The Amer­i­can or Cock­tail bar… Neon signs… Stools… A pletho­ra of chromi­um… Pre­pon­der­ance of women… It is dif­fi­cult to find words ade­quate to con­demn this type of abom­i­na­tion…

The Chain House… This is a large estab­lish­ment usu­al­ly of brick which sports a car-park. It is by far the least offen­sive of the non-seri­ous types of drink­ing estab­lish­ments, and at a pinch it is per­fect­ly cor­rect for the Drinker to enter it…

The Pub or Local… The is the ide­al locus biben­di for the Seri­ous Drinker. Now, the true pub is not always easy to recog­nise… it will in all prob­a­bil­i­ty be tucked away in some side-street, mews or alley…

There are then pages and pages on the sub­ject of pub doors  – the var­i­ous types, their actions, how to oper­ate their han­dles  – and then a whole lot more on where to sit once you’re inside for opti­mum effi­cien­cy. There’s a sec­tion on pos­ture, one on how to grip your glass, and on how to chat up bar­maids. All of this is more or less tedious.

A crowd in a pub.
Detail from the end­pa­per of the book.

Things pick up again with an attempt to cat­e­gorise types of drinker:

The Seri­ous Drinker…

The Soli­tary or Intro­spec­tive Drinker… unshaven… uneth­i­cal ties…

Bar­maid-Chaffing Drinker… faint­ly furtive, con­fi­den­tial­ly bom­bas­tic tone…

The Qua­si-seri­ous or Com­pet­i­tive Drinker…

The Cryp­to-seri­ous or Mis­cel­la­neous Group… This group includes inter alia, the dart-play­ers, the shove-half­pen­ny boys, the domi­no kings, the crib­bage enthu­si­asts, the bar-bil­liards men and the pin-table fiends…

The Cel­e­bra­to­ry of Extro­spec­tive Drinker… a note­wor­thy haz­ard to the Seri­ous Drinker…

The Social or Gre­gar­i­ous Drinker…

The Med­i­c­i­nal or Ther­a­peu­tic Drinker… On no account should he be engaged in con­ver­sa­tion, because this inevitably con­sists of an inter­minable rep­e­ti­tion of his mor­bid ail­ments, past and present…

The Casu­al or Inter­mit­tent Drinker… He looks at the clock between gulps and speaks in an anx­ious tone of voice…

All in all, this is a minor work, per­haps of great­est use to those with an inter­est in atti­tudes to women in pubs.

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