Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing in the 1920’s

“Many wise ringworms are ready to mortgage the old homestead on Harry Greb, if the “Windmill” get a crack at Georges Carpentier’s light heavyweight crown.

Greb beyond all doubt is the best his weight and a real freak but he would have a battle against the hard hitting Frenchman.

Tom Gibbons and Gene Tunney will vouch that no fighter who has to set himself to punch is going to whip Greb. Carpentier who, can hit on the fly, looks to be the only one outside of Dempsey who has a chance to flop the Pittsburgh boy and he would get mussed up before he succeeded.

Some dirt is always spilled before a big fight: Whispers are now going up and down “Tin Ear Alley” that the Leonard-Tendler lightweight championship fight is going to be “one of those things” (Durango Evening Herald, June 28, 1922).

Boxing was a popular sport in the 1920’s as is attested to in this Durango Evening Herald excerpt. In rural areas, like Durango, Colorado, many were not able to attend boxing matches. They were, however, astutely listened to on the radio.

The photograph below is of Jack Dempsey from Manessa, Colorado. He was known as the “Manassa Mauler.” Here, he is fighting Andy Malloy in the Gem Theatre on the corner of Tenth and Main, Durango. Jack Dempsey went on to win the National Championship in 1919, and held it for five years.

Photograph copyright Center of Southwest Studies

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Prohibition in Colorado

On January 16, 1920, the “Noble Experiment” went into effect. This was an attempt to outlaw the manufacturing and sale of alcohol. The government was unable to regulate the sale and or reduce the consumption even though they closed down nearly all alcoholic beverage companies. Only a few companies stayed running, Coors being one of them, producing alcohol for medicinal use only as well as soft drinks.

Instead of teaching morality, which was one of the goals, Prohibition created lawlessness in the form of illegal alcohol, often referred to as moonshine and illegal bars, called speakeasies. Because there was no regulation of the illegal business, many gangs were created around moonshine and the process of selling it, called bootlegging. Crime rates increased as well as deaths related to alcohol. Much of the home-brewed drinks were unsafe, containing high contents of lead from using old carburetors as stills. Sometimes wood alcohol, methanol or
other noxious materials such as household cleaners were added to speed up the process and save money. Blindness was not an uncommon occurrence after drinking “bad” moonshine.

The biggest “booze” raid in the history of Colorado, took place in Denver 1922, when seventy-three agents of the United States government, fifty-five of them sworn in from the ranks of the Colorado Rangers, made simultaneous raids on twenty-five hotels, rooming houses, cigar stores, soft drink parlors and private homes, most of them in the heart of the city’s business district, looking for evidence of violations of the national prohibition law (The Denver Post, March 17, 1922).

Homemade moonshine distillery on display at the Notah-Dineh Museum - Cortez, CO

On the southwest side of Colorado, many of the gold and silver mines in the San Juan Mountains were closing down because of the lack of minerals. This provided the perfect location for a still. The moonshiners would hide the still back in a closed mine shaft and be able to make their moonshine without being caught. They would then ship the moonshine out to the surrounding areas. One method for peddling moonshine in Durango was to paint milk jars white, and then fill the jars with moonshine.

Though many citizens made their own brew, perhaps in a basement, moonshine was a relatively good business during the depression era toward the end of the 1920’s. The Eighteenth Amendment making Prohibition legal was repealed on December 5, 1933.
The author, Erin, and her son, Ethan