My local paper included a news item from 90 years ago when the council was preparing a bylaw about restaurants in town. The council had power to prohibit high-backed stalls in eateries and to regulate the window curtains and blinds so as not to obstruct the view. All this because the folks in the temperance movement wanted to look inside to makes sure follow citizens were not (horrors) imbibing alcohol.
Silly as this seems today, this is a tiny glimpse into the 1920s, the Prohibition years when liquor was illegal. Decades of hard work by temperance workers had hoped to wipe out the scourge of drunkenness that devastated so many families. Prohibition was their triumph and they meant to enforce it.
Yet Prohibition wasn’t working so well. It turned Prince Edward County, jutting far into Lake Ontario, into a hive of illegal rum-running as hard working fishermen discovered the riches to be scooped up by slipping good Canadian whiskey over to American speakeasies. Drinkers resorted to ever more devious ways to hide and consume booze. Doctors and pharmacists did gangbuster business dispensing “medicinal” alcohol. Commercial establishments could not be trusted to serve only tea and lemonade.
So no wonder the staunchly pro temperance majority in the county wanted to eye the beverages in front of patrons.
By the end of the 1920s, Prohibition was repealed but we still have the legacy today in the Liquor Control Board of Ontario which only allows alcohol to be sold through carefully controlled LCBO outlets, keeping hard liquor out of every corner store and grocery. It’s a system that has worked well for almost a century and fits well with our ethic of moderation in all things. So let’s raise a glass to those old time temperance folks who banged their drums, marched in our streets and peered into restaurants to make things better for us all.