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Islander to bring Billy Sunday's Prohibition sermon to church

Vashon Island Beachcomber
by Bret Rankin

"The amount of alcohol sold on the [Vashon] Island is so high we have a larger liquor store than most any other place with our population," Gene Amondson, island artist, said.

In response to that fact and his fight against alcohol, Amondson is bringing Billy Sunday's sermon that helped get a 90 percent vote in favor of Prohibition to a Vashon church.

Billy SundayBilly Sunday was offered $1 million by the liquor industry to stop preaching his booze sermon 80 years ago. He gave up a professional baseball career to spread his message, which is credited with being largely responsible for Prohibition from 1920 to 1933.

"He was the fastest man in the national leagues, the highest paid baseball player up to that time, and was three stolen bases short of Ty Cobb's record when he quit." Amondson said.

"Billy Sunday's sermon was so powerful that when he traveled in Bellingham, Washington in 1910 to preach, 500 saloons closed. The next year the state of Washington went dry. The sermon made sense because people were tired of crime," Amondson said.

Amondson has had a part in drying up towns throughout Alaska, Washington and Oregon.

Amondson said, "Alcohol has replaced cigarettes over the past three decades as a perceived sophisticated item, or a 'with-it' thing to do. When I was a kid people would take out a cigarette and pass it around. Now alcohol has replaced this method of being socially accepted.

In 1920 people were so tired of crime that 95% of American counties were for prohibition.

Gene image "Thirty years ago people were handing out cigarettes, now they're doing it with beer. We need to get wiser about that, Perhaps in a few years, a person drinking wine will hide himself under the table cloth because it won't be socially accepted, like smoking cigarettes is today." Amondson, said.

"Crime and alcohol in the 1920s was viewed as unsuccessful because media focused on bootleggers and negative aspects of the time. The truth is, it was the best 13 years of America. The prisons and mental institutions emptied, death rates from cirrhosis of the liver dropped, and these were the last years America had a balanced budget." Amondson said.

"I would rather have 100 Al Capones in every big city than to have alcohol in every 7-11 and Safeway store. Prohibition was not perfect, there were still bootleggers, but you wouldn't have $2 billion a year making Budweiser look like a friend of the family." he said.

Billy Sunday's sermon is moving enough that if all of America could hear the sermon, I believe 90 percent of church-going people and maybe 51 per cent of drinking people would vote for Prohibition," Amondson estimated.

America knows prohibition worked. We were able to reduce the use of cocaine by 90% between WWI and WWII.

Messages about alcohol given out today are usually controlled by the alcohol industry. Research on the effects of alcohol is encouraged by the industry. It's a tremendous cover-up, and the alcohol industry is powerful enough to do it.

"America must realize the alcohol industry and it's advertising are not friends of the family. The message is 'teach people to drink responsibly.' That's a good idea, but it's like trying to get a pig to eat with a spoon. It doesn't work." Amondson said.

Amondson said he reached two out of three million people in New Zealand years ago when he took the Billy Sunday sermon there. Amondson still wants to make America go dry.

I believe Billy Sunday was the last great preacher America ever produced. No one prepared a better sermon on the subject.

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