Historic Ephraim, the last community in Wisconsin still not allowing the sale of alcohol, may be going wet. A new proposal seeks to lift a prohibition that has been in place since the day Reverend Iverson brought his Moravian congregation to Ephraim 163 years ago. Present day restaurateurs claim that without alcohol sales they cannot compete. Now they would like to change the character of the historic community for the sake of a few more dollars and, in so doing, choose not to honor the Moravian past and spirit. Ephraim is a destination spot chosen by all for its history, picturesqueness, tranquility and serenity, not as a place to wet one’s whistle.
Life in Ephraim today is much like it was when I first arrived in the early 1960s on a ski outing to Nor-Ski from Lawrence University. Then there was not an empty beer can on the snow nor a wine bottle in the gutter. Life in Ephraim today is the collective wisdom of thousands of villagers over multiple generations. We do perhaps suffer cultural lag, that is, some of the best parts of our past we keep alive. Ephraim is slow to give into the social ebb that has overwhelmed so many other tourist destinations.
Beginning in the mid- to late-1950s the life we knew and cherished seemed to be challenged daily. Family values as well as institutions were constantly under attack. The sexual revolution was on a roll, the disaffected generation was, they thought, righting the wrongs of the world and Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” was creating teenage pandemonium. In Ephraim, on the other hand, not much changed at all. Families prayed and played together, everyone took great pride in their community, the Ephraim Historical Foundation added another coat of white paint on the Anderson Store and the well-preserved old schoolhouse, and everyone anticipated the Sunday sing-alongs at the Village Hall.
Needless to say, the ensuing five decades saw more social change. Still, life in Ephraim changed very slowly, if at all. Fyr Bal came and went, fish boils were enjoyed summer after summer and the Anderson Barn got a new coat of stain. And who can forget those glorious sunsets. Kids learned to sail and fish and picnicked with their grandparents in the Park. Yes, we may be a little slow to get up to speed and “change with the times” because we champion our past while savoring the present always keeping a very watchful eye to the future.
In deference to the very thoughtful, determined and self-sacrificing Moravian founding fathers who were adamantly opposed to the sale of intoxicating beverages in Ephraim on the grounds they would be harmful to family values, I will be first in line to vote NO on the upcoming April 5th referendum.