Raise Your Glass to Repeal Day!

Raise Your Glass to Repeal Day!

Why… because on December 5th 1933, Prohibition ended with the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. While the Eighteenth prohibited the manufacturing, distribution and sale of alcohol, it did not make consumption illegal. The Volstead Act set the guidelines for enforcement, types, and levels of alcohol permitted.  The “Noble Experiment” as Prohibition was dubbed, was brought about through the tireless efforts of such groups as the Anti-Saloon League, the Carrie Nation Prohibition Group and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which was also a strong advocate for women’s suffrage.

The day the nation went dry was January 17, 1920 and would bring many changes over the next 13 years.

It was believed by the “dries” that removal of the evil saloon and devil liquor would alter society and improve life in general. However, the altering of society took an unforeseen twist as the Speakeasy flourished and crime rose at alarming rates. Women, not seen in saloons prior to Prohibition, would put on their evening gowns and secretly slip into such notable houses of illegal booze as New York’s 21 Club to sip cocktails, which became the rage during this period. The “wets” found a way to get their hooch, which sometimes proved deadly as gangsters ran the streets and, at times, the law.

Jazz became the soulful sound of Prohibition, swiftly becoming very popular and spreading from New Orleans north to Chicago and New York. Yet another change in society was the effect of mixing black musicians with mostly white crowds at the speakeasies.

As respect for the law lessened, mobsters became rich, and jobs were much needed after the Stock Market Crash of 1929 that brought with it the beginning of the Great Depression, the Twenty-first Amendment, to repeal Prohibition, was proposed and swiftly passed. Supported not only by the vast majority of the populace, the liquor industry, but also many physicians who lobbied on behalf of medicinal liquors, December 5th 1933 marked the day to celebrate the repeal.

One newsreel of the time announced it was projected that over five hundred thousand jobs would be created with the end of Prohibition, to say nothing of the return of much needed taxable revenue.

And as President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the legislation that ended Prohibition he suggested, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”

So cheers to a day which made raising a glass legal again and ended the wild and tumultuous times of the “Roaring Twenties”.

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Speakeasy and Prohibition

Speakeasies and Secret Rooms

Mount Baker and Speakeasies in Seattle

Mount Baker and Speakeasies in Seattle

When the Northwest region, specifically Washington State, was first developing, much of the transportation was on our numerous water ways. Lakes, channels, straits, and rivers were busy and bustling with fleets of boats carrying cargo and people.

Thus, during Prohibition, having a home near the water made running illegal booze easier and, at times, safer.

During one of my readings of Whiskey Cove, my historical fiction novel on Prohibition in the Northwest, a 93 year old woman asked me what I thought of her story.

Years ago, she and her husband, who was a State Legislator, had recently moved to the Mount Baker area of Seattle, Washington.  They were the third owners of a house where the elegant and sprawling older homes overlook Lake Washington. The large structures were extravagant, built for entertaining.

(These samples of Mount Baker homes are walking distance to Lake Washington, which graces Seattle with its beauty and provides numerous opportunities for boating and swimming.)

Mount Baker Speakeasy style home

Speakeasy style homes in Mount Baker

One day, when her husband was away working at the Capitol Building in Olympia, her youngest son came charging up the stairs with his friend right behind. Their eyes were large with excitement. “Mom, there’s a room down there.”

She dismissed them with, “Yes, I know dear. Now run along and play.”

“No, Mom,” the young child insisted, “there’s a ROOM down there. You better come and see.”

She half-heartedly followed the two alarmed young boys down the stairs. The family had lived in the house for over six months and had explored and cleaned every inch.

However, when she hit the bottom stair she stood in awe. It appeared the two friends, being boys, had been wrestling and knocked against a wall which gave way and opened partially.

The woman was absolutely stunned.

Prohibition style car and home

Prohibition style car and home in Mount Baker

Neither the past owners, nor the realtor, had mentioned this bit of Prohibition history. For cleverly concealed in this fashionable neighborhood, in the bowels of their mansion, was a well sized secret room or speakeasy. The space provided the ultimate place to hide and enjoy coveted, illegal alcohol.

Mount Baker is also the area where Roy Olmstead lived, a former Lieutenant for Seattle Police. When Olmstead was fired from the police force for running illegal booze, he devoted all his time developing his very profitable bootlegging operation throughout the Pacific Northwest. He became known as “The Good Bootlegger” because he would not allow his men to carry guns and did not partake in prostitution or others crimes.  By November 1924 the Feds had enough evidence to arrest him using wiretapping. This was the first case upheld by the Supreme Court for wiretapping, Olmstead v United States, in February of 1928.

And so it goes, that history always has a way of reappearing.


Photo’s by Denise





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