Taking a mild shot

‘‘I CAN understand ‘General’,’’ our reader from Kotara had said. ‘‘But what on earth did ‘Temperance’ mean?’’

She was referring to the defunct insurance company Temperance and General, the former tenants of the T&G building on Hunter Street, and it was a good question. It’s haunted us.

We’ve tossed and turned. One night we finally found sleep, and dreamed we were hosting the Golden Globes as Ricky Gervais with the head of a bulldog. But when we opened our jowly mouth to speak, what came out was the voice of the reader from Kotara.

‘‘What on earth did ‘Temperance’ mean?’’ we asked, in the dream. We woke, sweating.

But the torment has ended, thanks to Jan Welsman, from Floraville.

Temperance, says Mrs Welsman, an insurance clerk with T&G from 1957-59, referred to whether or not you drank. As in, drank alcohol. Got on it.

They asked because it affected how much you paid for life insurance. Non-drinkers paid less. Some people wrote things on their forms like, ‘‘I’ll only have a beer at Christmas’’.

‘‘What those people didn’t realise,’’ Mrs Welsman tells us, ‘‘was that that meant they had to pay the drinkers’ rate on insurance.’’

There’s a lesson there, and it’s that you should never be honest with insurance companies. If they ask about your lifestyle, lie. Lie your drunken, nicotine-addicted, diabetes-suffering, cholesterol-consuming head off.

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