Sunday, February 22, 2009

Saloon Ordinance, Spring 1908

As the temperance and prohibition forces grew in the first decade of the 20th century, even where legal, saloons got squeezed. In April 1908, Salem City Council passed an ordinance that attempted to bring into public view saloon activities that had been private and hidden. In addition to helping to ferret out crime, it likely also operated to increase public visibility and thereby shame.

On May 13th, the newspaper reports, “Chief of Police Gibson… Mayor Rodgers, the license committee, consisting of Councilmen Waldo, Presnell and Frazier, and a Journal reporter,” inspected 18 downtown saloons. They found only one saloon in compliance, and at least one husband in the doghouse.

Two sections of the ordinance occasioned the most egregious violations:
Section seven of the ordinance says that no drinks shall be served in any room except the main bar room, yet many of the saloons maintained large back rooms, almost entirely shut off by partitions, which contained tables upon which drinks were served.

Section eight of the ordinance says that no bar room shall be maintained having in connection with it any box or room smaller than ten by sixteen feet, and that when such rooms are maintained they shall face the main aisle and be entirely open, having no doors, or curtains and no private entrances. Practically none of the saloons have complied with this part of the ordinance. Some of the small boxes were locked, others were used as temporary store rooms, and some were apparently open for business.
As a result of the inspection
The investigating committee decided that saloons were making very little attempt to comply with any part of the ordinance, and others were simply making a farce at living up to the letter of it. One saloon on State street had put in eight feet of clear glass in its front (the ordinance calls for ten) but had so smeared this eight feet over with gaudy lettering that it was almost impossible to see through the window, to say nothing of discovering through it what was going on inside. Others, that had complied with the ordinance so far as the ten feet of clear glass was concerned, had the view of the bar completely obstructed by wooden partitions placed between the bar and the windows.
They also found one delinquent husband.
In some of the places, even where the letter of the ordinance has been carried out in regard to the ten feet of glass front, it is impossible, on account of the dark background of the barroom, to see what is going on within. An example of this is clearly shown by an incident that occurred during the inspection tour yesterday. Upon coming out of one of the saloons on Commercial street, which has strictly complied with the glass front regulation of the ordinance, the Chief of Police’s party was confronted by a woman peering through the glass door and straining her eyes as if to find someone. On seeing Chief Gibson, she told him that she thought her husband was inside. Gibson promptly held the door open and the woman pointed out the man, who was promptly led out of the saloon by the head of Salem’s police force.
The article listed 18 saloons, all clustered on State and Commercial streets. The deficient saloons:

On State street: Council saloon, Schreiber’s saloon, Senate saloon, Talkington’s saloon, Frank Collin’s saloon, Capital saloon, Monogram saloon, and Noble saloon.

On Commercial street: Bach & Nadstanek saloon, Standard Liquor Co. saloon, Columbia saloon, Swartz & James saloon, Willamette hotel bar, Elk head saloon, Bank saloon, Annex saloon, and Eckerlin’s saloon.

The lone saloon in compliance was Neusbaum’s saloon on Commercial.

Here’s an earlier Talkington Saloon in the Reed Opera House on Court street. And here’s a portrait of him. Unfortunately there are few photos readily accessible. If I find more later, I’ll return to post them.

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