Archive for Prohibition
In the New World that was America in the 1920s, the land of opportunity unwittingly welcomed both the good and the bad. Or perhaps all that possibility – and in some cases hardship – helped create and shape some lives and characters for the worst.
My husband and I like to watch the television show ‘Boardwalk Empire’, even though we’re not as dazzled by it as we’d hoped. What keeps me hanging on is the historical significance (and I’m not ashamed to say, beautiful clothes). But now I’m even more intrigued about what transpired during (and after) the Prohibition years, because I can literally see how my own backyard was affected by it.
Downtown Sacramento Partnership gives a Speakeasy Tour (and Pub Crawl) on the 3rd Saturday of every month. I was surprised how many people showed up this past weekend, considering it was raining hard enough to flood the old town once again. But with umbrellas and curiosities in hand, we followed the easy-speaking tour guide Shawn Peter from place to place, hearing stories about what transpired underground, both literally and figuratively.
I’m not going to give all the good stuff away – because the tour is really worth its $10 price and the two hours you’ll spend peering into the past – but it’s not hard to imagine Old Sacramento as it was back then and how it too succumbed to the “new world” of the “underground”. Just imagine a bustling new Gold Rush town, how the city itself was not supportive of Prohibition, and all that sprouted from the rich soil of possibility.
Sacramento’s rivers became the West’s major alcohol trade routes, the city’s literal underground labyrinth became littered with “illegal” activities, businessmen turned into crime bosses, boats became floating bars, and speakeasies cropped up everywhere from attics to high schools.
The quality of liquor went down while its demand went up, bathtubs turned multi-functional, and trap doors became all the rage. People learned how to be sneaky, how to get around the law, and how to love the allure of things forbidden. Others learned how to utilize the laws now in place to make a fortune and seal their questionable fates.
Old Sacramento, still looking much the way it did back then, is full of intrigue, ambiance and charm, especially at night when the lights dim, the sights soften, and the separation between then and now blurs. When down in an old dark basement bar, it’s easy to imagine oneself alive during the tumultuous time of Prohibition… The question is: what kind person would it have brought out in you?