A Smattering of Quotes from: Last Call – the Rise and Fall of Prohibition

I have written a couple blog posts recently based on reflections inspired by Daniel Okrent’s wonderful book, Last Call. But there are so many wonderful tidbits from this book, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite quotes.
First there is William Jennings Bryan, a prominent force in the Democratic Party at the end of the 19th century, who colorfully described his opposition to the theory of evolution:

“It is better to trust in the Rock of Ages than to know the age of rocks.”

Of course he is completely wrong. But at least he is wrong eloquently.

Then there is the Kentucky Distillers and Distribution Company, which sought out a local alcohol treatment center and offered to sell them names of their frequent customers for $400. They bragged to the treatment center that:

“Our customers are your prospective patients.”

So much for business ethics!

I particularly enjoyed the song title by songwriter Albert Von Tilzer. He cleverly captured one of the unforeseen benefits of Prohibition, with his

“I Never Knew I Had a Wonderful Wife until the Time Went Dry.”

A newspaper reporter mocked the inability of Prohibition law to prevent people from drinking:

“It was absolutely impossible to get a drink in Detroit unless you walked at least 10 feet and told the busy bartender what you wanted in a voice loud enough for him to hear you above the uproar.”

Another person commented on the impossibility of stopping liquor smuggling across the US/Canadian border by saying:

“You cannot keep liquor from dripping through a dotted line.”

A man who made his business selling Scotch gave colorful advice:

“Of two evils, choose the more interesting.”

That is an aphorism that Oscar Wilde would be proud of.

And then, of course, there was Ernest Hemingway boldly claiming that

“a man does not exist until he is drunk.”

Ernest, Ernest, Ernest…

Leave a Reply