My memories of 1920s Prohibition

first_imgI remember one incident when the town cop chased a car and stopped him a block from our house. My sister and I raced to see what happened. The trunk of the small coupe was opened and inside was a keg. The man got arrested. I never did find out what was in the keg. My experience with Prohibition was through a kid’s-eye view and from all the talk by our elders. My parents, who were rather strait-laced, did not seem to have any opinion. Across the street from my three-story school building was the jail, a small one-story structure. My friends and I often crossed the street and looked into the cells through the front windows. Most prisoners were men who got into trouble from too much drink and got into fights or beat their wives. The jail was used mostly as a place to sober up. President Franklin Roosevelt repealed Prohibition in 1933. The sale and taxation of liquor was turned over to the states, which resulted in a hodgepodge of different laws and taxes. We later moved from the house and the brewery soon reopened. Once again it started selling Bohemian Club Beer, named after the province of Bohemia, where many of the residents had emigrated from. My mother’s parents came from Bohemia, what is now the Czech Republic. About a dozen saloons popped up along Main Street. Two dance halls, Casino and the Hilltop, also opened. Saturday night wedding dances were the norm. Kids were welcome and after the floor was waxed we would slide across it with our leather-soled shoes. Don Peyer is a 43-year Carson resident and a former president of the United Amateur Press Association.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.At the time, Prohibition seemed to be a lost cause. People were going to have their alcohol in spite of the law. Bootleggers and crime flourished, much like the drug dealers and crime today. Home brew was popular. Dad and his friends liked their beer and, with the help of a simple recipe, they brewed their own. A large crock covered by a white cloth was set up behind our kitchen stove where the mixture would be kept warm and out of the way while it fermented. After the allotted time, it was time for bottling. A flow was started in a plastic tube to transfer the brew from the pot to the bottles. When I was about 8 years old my dad gave me the job of capping the brown bottles with a small hand-operated apparatus. The bottled beer was stored in our cellar and occasionally there was an explosion when the pressure was too much for one of the bottles. I don’t think much attention was paid to the making of home brew as long as it wasn’t sold and you didn’t brag about it. Distributing hard liquor was what came under attack. My first experiences with Prohibition happened during the 1920s when I was 4 years old. We moved from a farm in northern Minnesota to a house that belonged to a brew master in Montgomery, Minn., a small town with less than 2,000 residents. The brewery was next to our house. It was a large brick structure that was boarded up and forbidding to a little boy who had moved from the wide open spaces of a farm. On the other corner of the brewery property was an ice house. One day my friends and I found an unlocked door and went inside. The large blocks of ice were once used to cool beer but they were now for iceboxes – the predecessor to the refrigerators. In the winter the ice was taken from the lakes and was sawed into manageable blocks. It was insulated by layers of sawdust to protect it from melting. The property sloped downward from the house. Across the narrow road was a marsh where I chased frogs and picked buttercup bouquets for my mother. In the winter, the slope was a great area for sledding and skiing. last_img

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