You know… we have it easy…
… Yes… it’s been a tough year (with another one gearing up to replace it)...
… Yes… we’ve all been cooped up at home (pandemics-shmamdemics, amirite?)...
… Yes… the political are winds picking up (and turning into a damn hurricane)...
BUT! (This is one important ‘but’ <— notice the exclamation mark there.)
Beer. Is. Not. Illegal.
Gin is not illegal. Schnapps is not illegal. Wine is not illegal.
Can you even wrap your head around how good we all have it?
Because this wasn’t always the case.
For 13 long years (1920 till 1933), alcohol was banned in the good ole US of A.
Production was banned. Importation was banned. Transportation was banned. Sales were banned.
The excuse “but officer, I just soak my washing in that barrel” didn’t really fly…
But (a lesser ‘but’ here, hardly carrying the same weight as the one above) possession and drinking were not banned. At least, they were not banned on the federal level. Some states had other ideas about that…
… which leads me to the first thing that you didn’t know about the infamous US Prohibition.
#1 - Prohibition Wasn’t the Same Everywhere
For example, in Maryland, nothing happened if you made, transported, or sold alcohol. Maryland remained staunchly anti-prohibitionist, in large part thanks to its Governors and Senators.
They just didn’t want their officers enforcing the law… and there was little that the federal government could do about that.
Meanwhile, in Mississippi…
Well, let’s just say you really didn’t want to get caught selling alcohol in Mississippi. They went balls to the wall when it came to enforcing the prohibition laws. I mean, there are counties there where you are STILL.not.allowed.to.buy.alcohol! (It’s 2021 and we’re in the middle of stay-at-home orders. I’ll let that sink in.)
#2 - Churchill Was Shocked by the Prohibition Movement
Ah, good, old, ‘gimme-a-double-Scotch-chop-chop’ Winston.
Really chummy with the US during WWII (when not berating us for waiting in the wings for too long), Churchill reportedly commented on the Prohibition like this:
“Prohibition is an affront to the whole history of mankind.”
Winston wetting his whistle…
#3 - We Owe “The Real McCoy” to the Prohibition
Bill McCoy was just about the only decent alcohol seller in those days. He was a rum-runner who brought in liquor from places like Cuba and the Caribbean — without watering it down!
McCoy sold his stuff at full strength.
So, when you hear the phrase “the real McCoy” (a product of really high quality) these days, it’s okay to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s a phrase that pays respect to a dude who risked everything to get the masses well and truly drunk.
#4 - It Took a Constitutional Amendment to Finish Off Prohibition
But sure… we can’t pass one today to make Washington a state… seriously?
Well, nevermind that…
What’s true is that the 21st amendment to the Constitution (ratified in 1933) is a big “Whoops, we got that wrong” to the 18th amendment (which introduced the Prohibition in 1920).
This is the first (and the only) time in US history that one amendment was used to repeal another one.
#5 - Everyone Was Sick for Alcohol...
… quite literally.
That’s because the Volstead Act allowed the sale of alcohol in pharmacies for anything from the flu to a toothache. And the doctors worked really hard to come up with creative prescriptions for the chronically ill who suffered from, when we get down to it, mere sans-alcoholitis.
A lot of speakeasies pretended to be pharmacies. And a popular drug chain, Walgreens, grew from some odd 20 locations to more than 500 locations during this period. Talk about a windfall, eh?
Oh...almost forgot. Sacramental wine was totally fine during this time. You can bet people walked around in all-black, taking swigs from a camouflaged bottle, and saying: “It’s okay, I’m a priest!”
“Yeah, you can bet I drank the last of the wine…”
Hey, living in a wet county? (i.e. not anywhere in Tennessee, Mississippi or Kentucky)?