Off the cutting room floor

For the past two months I’ve been writing a column on writing for Our Write Side called “Exploring Historical Fiction.” While another one will be coming out early next month, a few things haven’t made it through my editorial process. Today I figured I’ll pick something up off the cutting room floor and use it as a post. And so here you go.

It’s a myth that WWI caused the US to enact Prohibition. When Wilson declared war, the Drys had already won two-third majorities in both the House and Senate, and 26 of the 48 states had already passed prohibition measures. However, the war did provide Drys an opportunity to unveil patriotically charged propaganda. This served as a death blow to the Wet movement. The question became, “Are you going to support the war effort by conserving valuable resources like food grains?” Or, better:

Source: Ohio Historical Society

                                                 Source: Ohio Historical Society

I’d rather not think about her, never mind talk about her but, now that I alas recall? Mozilla has a similar poster hanging on her wall. She owns a rooming house, and in this Bloody Big Dry Blues scene she’s laying down her law for our main character:

“No drinkers, going God knows where to spend a dollar or even more and for what? Whiskey. Every day! With no regard for anything or anyone else but himself and his whiskey! And where does that leave hardworking good citizens like me? Who have their expenses? The poorhouse, that’s right!…That’s why Prohibition makes happier homes and better husbands and better sons by providing a pure moral atmosphere in which to prepare for life!…They must not imagine that they do not have a duty, a patriotic duty to perform as well as those who have a home. Because it has been brought time and time again to my attention that the most smug complacent satisfied creature during these days of agony is those (drunkards) who dine in boarding houses. They don’t seem to think it an essential that they aid the country and the poor little boarding house lady in her struggling to stay above the deep water of the high costs of living. They seem to think why give up any food when we’re paying for it when that’s the wrong conception. Your landlady isn’t the enemy! Just because the sugar bowl’s on the table doesn’t mean you should consume eight pounds a month! And bread and milk and butter and meat and everything else in the like proportion! There isn’t any excuse in the world why you should stay out of the duty of saving and conserving when the boys of our land are still over there dedicating their lives to the cause of liberty!”

As always, I draw a lot of my dialogue from 1914-1919 Elgin Courier back issues that I find at the Elgin Depot Museum. And the roots of Mozilla’s rant are found in this article:

Elgin Courier, 2/21/18. pg. 5 (source: Elgin Depot Museum

Elgin Courier, 2/21/18. pg. 5 (source: Elgin Depot Museum)


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