Prohibition 1919-1933

1918 opened a far different chapter for the brewery and for the country. The anti-alcohol voices were gaining momentum, and the tide was turning against the production of alcoholic beverages The concern of the movement was the affect of strong drink on the family, and that it robbed the working man of ambition and work ethic. This movement was usually called the temperance movement as in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Anti-Saloon League. The Drys succeeded and the nation’s states passed the 18th amendment, the Volstead Act, and the United States became a dry country and Sonoma County a dry county. Everyone knows from his or her history class and popular lore this law was unsuccessful and that a reign of crime and terror swept the nation. The affect on Sonoma County was relatively benign from a crime perspective. Certainly there were bootlegging operations that existed in towns and in rural areas, but law enforcement took a more lax approach-particularly as time went on. Speakeasies were busted but reopened the next day. Homebrew and homemade wine (often called Dago Red) was widely produced. People certainly did not stop drinking alcohol, and Prohibition may have made drinking look more alluring.
Breweries throughout the nation closed in December 1919 to comply with the Amendment to the Constitution. The period from 1919-1933 was a time that truly tested brewers’ inventiveness. Prohibition was expected to last a short period, but it stayed in force until the start of the Roosevelt era-1933. That is a long time between brews, so Frank and Joe Grace pursued every possible avenue for creating revenue. Across the country, breweries were doing everything they could to stay alive. Bottling soft drinks was a common practice. The bottling line that Grace Brothers put in when we switched to caps was the same bottling line used during Prohibition to bottle Cream Soda, Ginger Ale, Super Cola, Orange Soda, Lime Rickey and Lemon-Lime. I found no information on how Grace Brothers got the contract to bottle soft drinks but it definitely reflected an instinct for survival by Frank and Joe Grace. During this time Frank P and JT were not idle by any means. They continued the farming, cold storage business, ice plant and delivery business, dairy products and carbonated sodas. They produced their dairy products under the label of Velvet and churned out butter and ice cream. They also produced cereal malt beverages called near beer– not unlike today’s many non-alcoholic beers. They also sold seltzer bottles filled with sparkling water

( Burton GB Soda.doc #.02, #.04, #.10 #.11 and GB-CB-01)

I’ve always had a feeling that a few bottles snuck out of the bottling plant with a little more octane in them than was allowed, since the five boys of Frank and Pearl Grace–Moses, Jim, Tom, Jack and Bill–kept a sort of speakeasy going in the basement of the house at 825 MacDonald Avenue for their friends (Cathy Grace Hayes found evidence of this in the basement years later). I have always assumed there was a little beer going around, but in reality, it is a bit difficult to brew a small batch of beer at a commercial brewery without a whole lot of people knowing since beer in a commercial brewery is brewed in vats that hold thousands of gallons. However, another reason for the basement hangout was that their mother, Pearl Cockrill Grace, did not allow drinking in the house, so her sons evidently relied on invention to circumvent her dictate. Bill Geary, today a local attorney, lived across the street, and he told me recently that Mrs. Grace was the sweetest person you would ever meet and that the boys all respected their mom. He confirmed that she tolerated no drinking in the house. He did say that on Saturdays the boys would bring a case of beer over to his house and his dad, Judge Donald Geary, would join them for a beer. This would have been after Prohibition ended.