Looking back to the the days of Prohibition

To drink or not to drink

How many of you reading this have sworn to take part in “Dry January?”

It is one of the popular measures many people use to start the new year in a healthy fashion.

Choosing not to drink is one thing, but what about being told that no drinking is allowed? Did you know Prohibition started a bit more than a 100 years ago in January?

Prohibition in Canada was not much of a thing—it was repealed in the early 1920s in most provinces. But in America, Prohibition became big business, not just for the alcohol sales but also for the drivers who delivered the product.

Did you know their skillful driving, whether distracting authorities or dashing down country roads to make many deliveries, was the beginning of what became NASCAR?

Stock car racing – done on dirt country tracks with cars that looked like the family car – was attended by local folk, with racers who learned their skills as rumrunners. There was no money in it, drivers raced because they loved it. It was a grass roots effort that created a national association to support a new racing form for the middle class.

Alcohol wasn’t just smuggled around America during Prohibition, it was carried across the border too. Using trucks, the rail system and even the international waters, alcohol was brought in from Canada and the Caribbean.

There was a rampant rumour of a German submarine being sighted off the East Coast in 1922 which was never verified at the time, but Coast Guard files do contain a photo of two underwater vessels that were confirmed as not being American. Nothing has ever been declared or proven either way.

Canadian authorities did discover a “submarine without motors” that developed a leak and sunk. They surmised it was used for towing up to 5,000 bottles of beer across Lake Champlain to New York and Vermont.

Prohibition had some interesting side effects as well. I’m not sure who got the grant to discover these facts but check this out:

• Consumption of ice cream went up 55% during the height of Prohibition (were people looking for another vice?)

• The number of registered U.S. patents decreased by 15% (perhaps all those inspirational ideas developed over a pint were stymied?)

• The habit of prescribing alcohol for all kinds of ailments became a lucrative loophole for pharmacies—doctors, dentists, even veterinarians could write notes for people.

One campaign that gained popularity even towards the end of Prohibition may sound familiar – have you heard of mocktails?

Roxana Doran, a prominent member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union wrote a book titled “Prohibition Punches” in 1930, touting their health benefits along with their fresh flavours and elegant presentation. She encouraged housewives to host parties with these alternatives and embrace a lifestyle without alcohol. Was it a coincidence her husband was the commissioner of Prohibition?

Doran may have endured some criticism for being so zealous about her promotion of fruit juices and other non-alcoholic drinks along with her husband’s campaign views, but the women’s group of which she was part was instrumental in demonstrating how public health could be shaped through encouraging certain lifestyle habits.

So, cheers to the efforts of the innovators who created things like NASCAR and speakeasy’s amidst the conflict that Prohibition caused. Or maybe we should all enjoy a nice glass of a vegetable cocktail instead and consider a healthier approach.

Perhaps we can simply celebrate having a choice.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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