Written by Evan Engelhart
The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors, ushered in a period in American history known as Prohibition. Prohibition officially went into effect on January 17, 1920, with the passage of the Volstead Act. Despite the new legislation, Prohibition was difficult to enforce. The increase of the illegal production and sale of liquor, the proliferation of speakeasies and the accompanying rise in gang violence and other crimes led to waning support for Prohibition by the end of the 1920s. In early 1933, Congress adopted a resolution proposing a 21st Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 18th. The 21st Amendment was ratified on December 5, 1933, ending Prohibition.
Lakeside’s view of Prohibition and the consumption of alcohol have long been noted. Since the founding of the Methodist camp meetings, alcohol has not been welcome on Lakeside grounds. Still today, you cannot purchase or publically consume alcohol within Lakeside. Lakesiders have historically been supporters of Prohibition and the restraint of alcohol.
The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) has long had a residence in Lakeside. The WCTU was founded in 1873, with its first apparent reference to Lakeside in 1878, when the program listed a session sponsored by the “Women’s National Temperance Union.” In the late 1880s, the Lakeside Company offered the WCTU a lot to build a headquarters on site. This designated lot was on the corner of Fifth Street and Central Ave, which became 461 Central. This is a clear sign that the Lakeside Company supported the WCTU’s presence in the community and supported their position to end the consumption of alcohol in Lakeside.
According to a 1929 Port Clinton Republican Herald article, famous Evangelicalist Billy Sunday spoke to a crowd of up to 5,000 at Hoover Auditorium. Sunday spoke out against the ratification of the 21st Amendment. He was so against it, he stated that if he had to, he would dry up America himself and that the greatest clamanity that could befall the nation would be the repeal of the 18th Amendment. Sunday’s speech drew one of Lakeside’s largest crowds in Hoover, even today.
Several Peninsular News articles published shortly before the end of Prohibition told the stories of those in the community bold enough to break Prohibition laws in Lakeside. One story from March of 1930 tells the tale of a number of Lakeside and Marblehead boys who came across some washed up liquor and kegs of beer from the water. They then decided to drink that liquor on the shores of Central Park, in the shadow of the old bell. Later that same year, were two articles posted on the same day, a few days after Christmas. The first one explains how a holiday party turned sour when a fight broke out after a night spent with “fire water” and “liquid lightning”. Deputy Sheriff Phillip Lynch was able to restore the peace in Lakeside and the Christmas cheer party was over. That same night, three young men were caught breaking into the local priest’s basement in search of the sacramental wine. There had been wine gone missing “for some time”, so the priest set a trap. He attached an electric bell to the cellar door that would ring in the first floor bedroom. He caught the three youth red handed and handed them over to law enforcement but did not press charges.
These stories, and many more untold stories, tell the tales of alcohol and its consumption within Lakeside’s gates. Once referred to by President Woodrow Wilson as, “a great social and economic experiment”, Prohibition was difficult to enact and even more difficult to enforce. Like much of the country by the early twentieth century, Lakesiders' were ready to rid themselves of alcohol to create a safer, purer, and morally straighter country. While the rest of the country eventually reverted on that goal, Lakeside has historically steered towards a dry community.