Seventy-seven years ago today the Eighteenth Amendment banning the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcohol was repealed. Thirteen years of prohibition came to a close and Americans could drink and be merry without fear. The experiment was an utter failure. Bootlegging fueled organized crime and America’s thirst for alcohol actually increased. One positive outcome, homebrewing became a popular hobby.
It’s hard to imagine store shelves being cleared of my favorite drink let alone how people managed to cope. The postcard below offers a sad poetic insight.
I’ll decode a bit of the slang and musical allusions:
- When “schooners” played “tag” and you had a jag not eighteen miles from shore. This refers to bootlegging runs made to islands formed by boats that were strung together outside of US territorial waters. The boundary was extended during prohibition to combat smuggling.
- The term White Mule is a reference to various alcoholic drinks during the period. Similar fun terms include: coffin varnish, horse liniment, monkey rum, panther sweat, rot gut, or tarantula juice.
- If your gin is “Jake” that means its okay.
- “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here” is the refrain from a 1916 Dixie ragtime song called Alabama Jubilee, written by Jack Yellen with music by George L. Cobb. The song’s been covered numerous times over the years. You can listen to the original instrumental and a country version by Jerry Reed below.
Don’t think prohibition can’t happen in various forms again. Although blue laws are slowly fading around the country, neo-prohibitionists are still at work, evident by the recent debacle surrounding Four Loko.
If you want to learn more about the history of prohibition check out Daniel Okrent’s book Last Call: The Rise & Fall of Prohibition. It’s a very detailed assessment of the period that includes all sorts of interesting facts and stories. I’m about half way through my copy.
Pour yourself a drink tonight in celebration.