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Well, well. I always thought Americans were the only peoples goofy enough to attempt a ban on sweet mother hooch, but it turns out we weren’t even the first. Iceland was dry from 1915 to 1922 (and beer stayed banned until 1989), Norway was sober from 1916 to 1927 and Finland was thirsty from 1916 to 1932. By contrast, we didn’t climb on the wagon until 1920 (mark your calendars — next year will be our 75th anniversary of the repeal of 1933).

Iceland, Norway and Finland. Jesus. Three places where there’s got to be sweet fuck-all to do but get pissed as a newt and pass out in a snowbank. I bet they were all, like, “dudes. Let’s go to Denmark for the weekend and par-tay!”

Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of prohibition in Finland. A European would write the date as 5/4/32 — the “countdown” date was supposedly chosen deliberately. And appropriately — wannabe drunks were lined up ’round the block at the new, government owned and charmingly named Alko stores.

The US still has a patchwork of state regulations. I grew up in a dry county. Beer was allowed, but not liquor. My mother called it the Bootlegger Protection Act. The next county over was wet, but liquor stores were allowed to sell liquor and nothing else, presumably for fear some innocent might wander in for a Coke and stumble out a skid-row bum.

In some states, alcohol is sold by the government in Alcoholic Beverage Commission stores (a friend of mine once humiliated her family by reciting “ABC-Store-EFG” in kindergarten, in all innocence). Whereas in louche Louisiana, liquor is sold in the grocery store. Selling liquor on Sunday was forbidden in Massachusetts and Rhode Island until a couple of years ago. Not that yours truly is ever in danger of running low. I gots backup for my backups.

Anyhow, what got to Finland at last was the depression. No, no…not the perfectly natural depression that would derive from living sober in Finland, I mean the global economic depression of the 1930s. Finland’s sauce-producing trading partners to the South were not happy with prohibition and threatened tariffs on Finland’s…wood. And lumber. And timber. And that liquor tax money began to look pretty sweet.

A rare occasion when the venality of government served freedom.



Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 5, 2007, 9:40 am

Good lord! Wiki says Russia was dry from 1914 to 1925. NOW we know where the revolution came from! See what happens when you let the Russkies sober up?

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: April 5, 2007, 11:28 am

All the ice in all those countries, and no whiskey to wrap around it? Yecchh. I always thought the US was the only country that was infested with temperance types.

Blue Laws. Dry counties. Heh. I remember those. They sucked.

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: April 5, 2007, 2:30 pm

Interesting. My parents grew up in a dry county in Arkansas and it’s still dry as far as I know.

Comment from mesablue
Time: April 5, 2007, 4:48 pm

I grew up in Wheaton, IL. Very dry, Billy Grahamm dry — literally. We weren’t supposed to even have it in our home. Good Catholics that we were, we violated the law with extreme prejudice.

Just a couple of years ago they approved liquor licenses for restaurants only.

I love going to Canada and seeing ‘The Beer Store’.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 5, 2007, 5:04 pm

Is it Oklahoma or Utah they supposedly can’t serve drinks in commercial airplanes flying over? That one may be an urban legend, but I couldn’t find it on Snopes.

The liquor aisle in British supermarkets always makes me feel like a six year old at Toys R Us. It’s usually the farthest aisle(s) from the entrance, so you get there last. I feel like riding my trolley like a go-kart down the aisle squealing, “Beeeeeeeeeeeer!!!!”

Comment from Nita
Time: April 6, 2007, 7:45 am

This is interesting, I thought America was a land where prohibition was banned a long time ago. But there are still states which have rules! In India only one state is dry as far as I know and that is the state where Mahatma Gandhi is from – Gujarat. Ofcourse we have our dry days (Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday!) but thank heavans, you get beer and liquor everywhere. Why, in Goa, its like every second shop is a wine shop, and a beggar there asked us once to buy him a drink! My husband obliged. He gave him money for two drinks!

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