Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Yes, it's a Good Day...

...or at least it was 79 years ago today, when the good people of Utah (of all places!) cast the deciding vote that ratified the 21st amendment to the U.S. constitution (Ohio and Pennsylvania chimed in the same day, just for good measure).  The 21st repealed the 18th, and our long national nightmare - 13 years without a (legal) drink! - and the foolish experiment that was Prohibition was over.

Naturally, I've had a little anniversary celebration.

I'll never forget how shocked I was as a child, riding in the back seat of my Aunt Edna's massive sedan in some unfamiliar part of town (the East Side was a mystery in our hometown, mostly), when she and my grandmother Muscato looked amused as we passed a faded storefront.  "You wouldn't believe it now, but once upon a time that was the most popular place in town."

"Why?" asked I, looking at the weathered facade and unpromising shop windows.

"In the back," replied Aunt Edna, blithely piloting her royal blue Pontiac Bonneville at her habitual 15 miles per hour, "was the speakeasy!"

"Oh, my," exclaimed Grandmother, throwing her hands up as she did when especially pleased by something, "It was grand!"

And the two old ladies went on to extol the virtues of the place, its tiny tables and Italian proprietor, its potent gin ("most of it was perfectly safe") and excellent band ("Oh, how we danced!  And on Saturday nights, they had a colored singer!").  This, from a pair of respectable sisters-in-law whose idea of Wild Nights was an extra glass of Riunite Lambrusco or a second Old Fashioned.  It was the first time I had ever imagined that anyone I knew could break the law (a state of innocence dented here, but shattered permanently after Uncle Alfred had his Little Accounting Troubles in '72 - the ones that meant we didn't see him until '79).

I'm willing to bet, however, that even at their maddest moment of Roaring Twenties excess, the folks who frequented Batista's - the grandparents Muscato, Aunt Edna and Uncle Russell, and their ilk - would have frowned on orgies.  What can I say?  It was that kind of town...


  1. Thankfully we never had such a foolish thing as prohibition (although recent UK governments probably would try and repeat the greatest political mistake of American history if they could), but I do recall that chilling moment as a nipper when I realised that grandparents could - possibly - have been young once. Jx

  2. My mother was frequent chauffeur to her elderly aunts. Tooling around in the car, they would dissect various family rivalries, events and scandals as if I were deaf. One sainted (and by then morbidly obese) old dear cheerfully prattled on about her 'friends' back in the day, archly noting "the hippies didn't invent pre-marital sex m'dear". Not a pleasant realisation...