On December 5, 1933, Prohibition officially ended. And in Schuylkill County, the 18th Amendment’s demise came and went without a celebratory cocktail or shot of liquor.
A local reporter for the Pottsville Republican went out on the town and found no one celebrating. They found three reasons for this quietude.
One makes perfect sense – the price for the now legal liquor was exorbitant. There was intense demand and yet few producers to fill that need as 14 years of Prohibition had left distilleries almost entirely devoid of business.
Another reason was that beer sales had been permitted back in April 1933. This was when Yuengling had sent their famous truckload of “Winner Beer” to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House. That celebration had taken quite a lot of the excitement out of the end of Prohibition in Schuylkill County.
The final reason cited by the reporter was specific to the coal fields of Eastern Pennsylvania: they never really went dry in the first place. Illegal booze was everywhere in the Coal Region throughout Prohibition. And in December 1933, some residents of Schuylkill County were bitter that their homemade, cheap, powerful “coal chute” liquor might disappear with the reemergence of regulation and taxes. Legal liquor rarely clocked in at 180+ proof.
The full article from the Republican on December 6, 1933 is posted below:
City’s Welcome Decidedly Arid
Town, Except for Light Rain, Driest in Years; High Cost and Beer’s Return Blamed
LIQUOR SCARCE IN REGION
Pottsville celebrated the advent of the new wet era with one of the driest evenings in its history. In fact it was far drier than the night that the dry era came into being 14 years ago.
At that time, everyone seemed to be in a mood to have the last possible drink. Last night no one seemed to want the distinction of having the first drink.
The slight sprinkling of rain that occurred at intervals was probably the wettest part of the celebration.
On Centre Street, a search failed to disclose the presence of one drunk, while the same street 14 years ago was marked by more than a dozen saloons, hundreds of quarts of intoxicants, and drunks right and left. Last night not a bottle was in sight.
Some put the blame on the proposed high cost of the cocktails, which were scarcer than the proverbial hen’s teeth. Others blamed the beer, which they said had definitely put the hard stuff into the background.
On the other hand, dyed in the wool supporters of anything wet declared the situation was no different than it had ever been – that the county had never been dry and consequently couldn’t be any wetter.
What the price of liquor would be was a matter of conjecture or a crossword puzzle. Some reports had it that a truck load of liquor was enroute with the retail price to be $60 a case. County residents promised to match that stuff with liquor of just as good a variety at $3.75 a gallon, f.o.b., at the same place it had always been obtainable during the dry era.
Some of the liquor enthusiasts declared the return of the good stuff would be a disappointment. They said the cut liquor wouldn’t be able to compete with the 180 proof more or less “coal chute” product of the past.
And that was that. Anyone who had a good look at quart last night was lucky. There was none in bottles or glasses.
So far as the 18th Amendment was concerned, it might have never been on the statutes for all the attention it attracted in dying.