Prohibition in Corpus Christi

Coming of Prohibition set off a real spree
By Murphy Givens
Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Nueces County voted dry on March 10, 1916. The town’s 37 saloons were closed and dark. Saloons would be closed all over the country four years later when Prohibition took effect in January, 1920.

The 18th amendment banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of liquor, but the country was never dry. Prohibition ushered in the era of bootleggers, homemade gin, smuggled hooch, and shameless hypocrisy. Prohibition was a national Big Wink. Everybody was in on the joke.

In Corpus Christi, people drank Jamaica Beer made from vanilla extract, bay rum, and bitters. While these products were prohibited, druggists sold them anyway. Welding shops turned out copper stills, small enough to be loaded on pickups. People set up moonshine stills in backyards, using mesquite wood fuel for copper pots that held corn or grain mash. A problem for backyard bootleggers was disposing of the mash, which one could smell from a mile away.