Bone D ry by Marcy, Rouses Creative irector
EXTRA! EXTRA! Mississippi was the first state to approve the 18 th amendment and the last one to repeal it. This story appeared in the Mobile Press Register the day after the law was appealed. Biloxi, Miss., July 28 (AP)—Police cruisers, sirens screaming and lights flashing, escorted the big truck into Biloxi. The van sped to the plush Broadwater Beach Hotel. The crowd of onlookers cheered when the truck’s rear doors were opened, revealing 77 cases. They were carried into the hotel by waiters. Louis Cobb opened one, took out a bottle of Scotch whiskey. He poured some into a glass with ice, added a dash of soda, and handed it to T.M. Dorsett, the hotel manager. “Ahh,” said Dorsett, lifting the glass. As Dorsett downed the drink in the glare of a floodlight, Mayor Dan Guice and other officials snipped a tricolor ribbon stretched across the entrance to the lounge. There were more cheers. It was 6:55 last night. Drinking on the Mississippi Gulf Coast isn’t uncommon. But Dorsette’s tippling has special significance. It was the first legal drink of whiskey poured in Mississippi after 58 years of Prohibition, which really never did work. The Gulf Coast, particularly, never paid any attention to Prohibition. A score of more rushed into the Broadwater’s lounge when the ribbon was severed by the mayor and County Supervisors Laz Quave. “It’s on the house,” cried Dorsett. And it was until three cases were consumed. Then the cash register began to ring. “It still tastes the same,” said one drinker. “But somehow it seems better because it’s legal.”
I n 1907, as the first seeds of Prohibition began to take root, Mobile Mayor Patrick J. Lyons organized a delegation of prominent local citizens to lobby the Alabama Legislature to oppose a statewide Prohibition bill. Lyons, a brewery owner, had an especially vested interest in the mission, but he was hardly the bill’s most vocal opponent. N.J. McDermott, president of the Bank of Mobile, threatened Mobile County legislatures. “Unless anti- prohibitionists win,” McDermott wrote, “please give notice that Mobile is prepared to secede from the State of Alabama.” The delegation and McDermott were ultimately unsuccessful, and Alabama went cold turkey five full years before the rest of the nation when its legislature passed the “bone dry” law. Statewide Prohibition, even national Prohibition, didn’t stop the flow of booze into Alabama; sales and consumption just went underground. Mobile’s port made smuggling easy, and the state’s caves made easy hiding places. Underground tunnels were built, and bars and restaurants became speakeasies. Most people turned a blind eye to the blind tigers (disguised liquors shops), but not the feds. In 1920, the first year of Prohibition, Alabama led the country in the number of illegal moonshine stills exposed by the government. And in November 1923, federal agents netted 23 people and $100,000 worth of scotch, cognac and champagne in a raid of warehouses, offices and underground liquor shops. Further efforts to enforce Prohibition led to alcohol-related corruption and violence, police shootings, court battles and indictments against some of the city’s most prominent citizens. The US would repeal Prohibition in 1933, but most of Alabama would remain dry until 1937. Some counties and cities held out longer. Ashland and Lineville, the last remaining cities in opposition, threw out Prohibition in March of this year. Over two-dozen counties in neighboring Mississippi remain mostly dry. Sources include the Mobile-Press Register, Birmingham News and AL.com. To learn more visit AL.com. [ABOVE PHOTO] Norman Dean / Birmingham News / AL.com. For more historic photos, visit topics.al.com/tag/vintage.
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