On this date in 1937, anyone wanting to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with liquor in Alabama had the opportunity in 1937 because legal liquor sales returned after 22 years of prohibition. A crowd of 75 to 100 people turned out for purchases.
New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, right, watching agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition (Library of Congress)
TBT: News From The Tuscaloosa News, May 5, 1937
MONTGOMERY, Ala., May 5- AP
Legal liquor sales began today in Alabama state-owned beverage stores.
A Montgomery store, the first to be opened in 24 “wet” counties, made its first sale at 12 o’clock noon, to Montgomery Police Commissioner W. P. Screws.
First legal sale
It was the first legal sale of alcoholic beverages in Alabama in 22 years.
O. Baldwin chairman of the State Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, intimated similar stores, authorized in wet counties in a March 10 state-wide local option election, would be opened in Birmingham and Mobile “tomorrow, and certainly as soon as possible.”
Stores in other wet counties will be opened as fast as possible, the board chairman said, but gave no indication when sales would begin outside the state’s three most populous counties.
A “rushing business” was experienced by the Montgomery liquor store after Screws made the initial purchase and doors were thrown open “to the general public.”
A crowd of 75 to 100 stood about the front door and the “crush of business” was so pronounced the store was forced to admit only a few customers at a time.
Jack Smith, a distillery representative, made the second purchase.
Fire Alarm Sounds
A comic touch was added to the store opening as fire trucks, sirens blaring and bells clanging, dashed to the liquor store a few minutes before noon. Persons crowding the store and sidewalk looked about them with apprehension as firemen jumped from the trucks ready for action.
Investigation revealed an automatic sprinkler and alarm system had been tripped accidentally in the building where the store is located.
A few minutes later, Screws calmly made his purchase, with photographers snapping his picture as “the first customer.”
Alexander, a clerk in the store, filled the police commissioner’s order, and Cashier Ed Jenkins received the money. Screws, admiring his $4.80 quart purchase, moved aside to talk with Board Chairman Baldwin and Administrator John D. McNeel.
The orders are made out by customers from a prepared list. The blank shows the number of bottles desired, brand, price, and total amount. This is presented to the cashier with the cash, and he in turn gives it to a clerk who fills the order.
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