Mention the term Happy Hour to just about any American and you won’t have to explain what that means.  It conjures up visions of frosty glasses of beer, a myriad of various cocktails and cheap food, usually appetizers.  It also brings to mind the huge sigh of relief that is the end of the work-day, sometimes an early end on Fridays, and hanging out with friends, acquaintances and even your neighborhood Officer Friendly, all in varying states of soberness, or rather, drunkenness.  It gives a nice warm glow to the deep emotional center of a person, usually erroneously attributed to the pumping organ known as the heart.  And no, no one ever drives home after Happy Hour…no, no, never.

However, just 75 years and one day ago, this haven of contentment could not legally exist.  Can you imagine getting off work, harrowed and worn out, and having to go home to…a glass of milk?  Or a lemonade?  A cup of coffee or tea?  I mean, come on!  What kind of reward is that?  Milk…gas.  Lemonade…acid reflux.  Coffee or tea…case of the jitters, irritability and possibly the digestive plagues already aforementioned.  What a raw deal!

Yep.  Thanks to the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the US of A, enacted across the land in 1920, that lovely frosty beer whetting your whistle on a hot August evening after work, that gin and tonic or whiskey coke with your buddies at a friendly neighborhood establishment, served by a cynical or friendly Joe the Bartender, were not only scarce, but worse….illegal.  You might be able to risk a speakeasy in a remote alley later in the evening, but daylight hours, at the corner cafe?  Uh-uh.  No can do.  And definitely not with Officer Friendly…unless he was on the take.

December 5th, 1933 changed all that.  Bathtub gin…bye-bye.  Mob-run speakeasy…not so many and not so profitable anymore.  ‘Cause, by Jove!  FDR says it’s OK to have a beer, says it’s OK to toast your glass of scotch!  And when Utah finally…the last of 36 states…voted on the 21st Amendment to say OK too, that was it!  Over here in Seattle, the State of Washington had already ratified the new amendment back in October, and so eager were Seattle-ites to get the ball rolling and jump off that Wagon of Woe that the City Council already had an emergency ordinance drawn up just waiting for the Mayor to sign it…which he did immediately…and voila!  The Mecca Cafe on Queen Anne Hill/Uptown is purportedly the very first bar in Seattle to legally serve up a beer on that very day, December 5th, 1933!  At least, that’s how the history on the back of the menus used to tell it…and I say bully for them! 

So, today’s trite topic of “Thanks” goes like this:

Liberty's Torch is lighted once more today_1933 - courtesty Seattle Post-IntelligencerI’m thankful…so very thankful…for the 21st Amendment to the Constitution of  the United States of America.
And for the beverages, which now so freely flow.
One nation, now drunken, be they morose or happy,
Enjoying tranquility and Sodden Debauchery for all.

And now, off to The Mecca, such a short stone’s throw from my abode, in celebration!

*holding invisible glass high*

Slainte! Salude! Cheers!


© 2008 D. Kessler