Monday, December 30, 2019

Drying up the New Year

1920 Ushered in With a Solemnity Born 
of the Dry Law
Quiet Celebrations Downtown, Except for those who carried drinks with them.
Streets Deserted Early
Crowds hurrying home from the watch-night services, only sign of life after midnight

January 1, 1920
       The new year literally sneaked in last night and Buffalo woke up this morning to find the year 1920 upon itself without as much as a headache. True it is that those who had some of the joy juice stashed away or obtain a bottle on the deposit of a right eye, became at least jocular during the course of the evening and early morning. The old time racket of those who were wont to cut capers in Main Street as the new year came in, were lacking last night. Those people who visited the Iroquois (Hotel) and Statler showed signs of real life.  All through the day and up to the times that the parties started, men were seen to follow the beaten path to the hotels, bearing queer sorts and sizes of packages, grips, valises, jugs and the like.  Most of the celebrations were held in the homes.  The streets were deserted shortly after midnight, except for the crowds hurrying home from watch-night services in the churches.
   The only apparent noise on the main stem previous to the sounding of the whistles at midnight was the raucous call of the street vendor in a vain effort to sell his ware. Mr. Young Man, who in previous years after someone had bought him a drink or two, occasioned up and bought almost anything, this year kept a heavy triple pad-lock on his pocket. Many vendors along Main Street were forced to go to their homes carrying almost as much of the New Year noise makers with them as they had brought downtown.  
   At five minutes before twelve at the Statler, Manager John Daniels had the lights in the banquet hall dimmed and as the old year passed out, Herter A. House, leader of the orchestra sounded taps. The year 1920 was ushered in with a sounding of a Chinese gong as two electric signs blasting 1920 were lighted.  At the Iroquois the whole hostelry was thrown into darkness for a moment and the new year was ushered in with a lively Jazz piece by the orchestra.  The cafe men in the downtown district reported it the most quiet celebration in their memory.  The bars were practically deserted.  
   The police, who were out in great numbers for occasions such as has been held in former years, had nothing to do last night. The number of drunks was exceedingly small, even though it was not made hard by the “revenoos” to get a drink last night. Some persons with the evident intent to play a prank on the police, reported a holdup in a saloon on Washington St. There was a hurry call to headquarters  and a dozen detectives headed by captain Zimmerman rushed to the number given by the complainants.  
   When Clarence Barton, the driver, reached Washington street he turned north and slowed down to look for the number given as the place of the holdup. He proceeded cautiously along the street only to find that the number given would be included in the block in which the Soldiers Monument stands. The police searched the neighborhood for a half hour then returned to headquarters." 

One hundred years ago New Years 1920 was a somber holiday poised on the "eve" of Prohibition which was to go into effect on January 17th. 1920. However, restrictions were already being levied at the direction of the courts and congress, due to the War Prohibition Act which the 18th Amendment fell under. Called into special session to declare war in April 1917, the new Congress adopted temporary wartime prohibition as a measure to conserve grain for the army, America's allies, and the domestic population. The Lever Food and Fuel Control Act of August 1917 banned the production of distilled spirits for the duration of the war. The War Prohibition Act of November 1918 forbade the manufacture and sale of all intoxicating beverages of more than 2.75 percent alcohol content, beer and wine as well as hard liquor, until demobilization was completed.   Breweries and distilleries were already winding down operations and planning transitions to alternative types of production in preparation for this inevitable day. Interests affected by this were challenging certain aspects of the Volstead Act and the War Prohibition Act in courts, especially the brewing industry.   
   The 18th Amendment ratified January 16, 1919, made no reference to alcohol content, citing only "intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes" as being illegal.  This gave many people the false impression that beer and even wine with their lower alcohol content were not considered intoxicating and thus be spared restrictions.  But the resulting Volstead Act (the actual set of laws drafted by Congress to enforce Prohibition)passed on October 28, 1919 set the legal alcohol limit at one-half of 1 percent.  The legal action that brought about the headline below was a brewer Jacob Ruppert to restrain the government from interfering with him manufacturing his beer with approximately 2.75 per cent alcohol, alleged to be non-intoxicating, and that Prohibition would not go into effect till January. It was ruled that the Amendment being under the War Prohibition Act was in effect because the WP Act could not be cancelled until full de-mobilization of the armed forces took place.
   Since the 18th amendment, the Food and Fuel Control Act, the War Prohibition Act and the Volstead Act all overlapped in enforcement, Prohibition was essentially in place since 1917, restricting the production, supply, transport and alcohol content of alcoholic beverages. So 1920 was the first New Years to be affected by Prohibition.  
   Things have changed a lot in regards to alcohol consumption as we approach 100 years since the 18th Amendment officially went into effect. For better or worse? Well that's a discussion for another time, but not here.

Decree of Highest Court Confirms Power of Congress to Fix Alcohol Content 
of Liquor that May Not Be Sold - Sustains Law Prohibiting the Manufacture or Sale 
of Beer Containing More Than Half of One Percent

   So enjoy your New Years Eve parties and celebrations for 2020. Be Safe, responsible and happy that you can enjoy your favorite beverages legally. 

  Happy New Year to All!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Nickel and a Dream, The Bijou Dream Theatre

                Bijou Dream Theatre, Corner of Main and N. Division Streets - Courtesy of B&ECPL

   The Bijou Dream Theatre at 347 Main St. with the large number “5” on the side, was a nickelodeon that started operating by March 1908. A nickelodeon, was the first type of indoor exhibition space dedicated to showing projected motion pictures. Usually set up in converted storefronts, these small, simple theaters charged five cents for admission and flourished from about 1905 to 1915. Nickelodeons usually showed films about ten to fifteen minutes in length, and in a variety of styles and subjects, such as short narratives, "scenics" (views of the world from moving trains), "actualities" (precursors of later documentary films), illustrated songs, local or touring song and dance acts, comedies, melodramas, problem plays, stop action sequences, sporting events and other features which allowed them to compete with vaudeville houses.
    Nickelodeons were strong throughout the years 1905-1914. Statistics at the time show that the number of nickelodeons in the United States doubled between 1907 and 1908 to around 8000, and it was estimated that by 1910 as many as 26 million Americans visited these theaters weekly. Nickelodeons however, became victims of their own success as attendance grew rapidly, it necessitated larger auditoriums. With the advent of the feature film, and as cities grew and industry consolidation led to larger, more comfortable, lavish movie theaters. Longer films caused ticket prices to double from 5¢  to 10¢.  Although their heyday was relatively brief, nickelodeons played an important part in creating a specialized spectator, "the moviegoer,” who could now integrate going to the movies into his or her life in a way that was impossible before. The nickelodeon explosion also increased the demand for new films, as thousands of theaters needed new product.
    The Bijou Dream Theatre was operated by W.K. Killmier and presented continuous shows daily. It had one screen, 300 seats and closed around  1914.  The theatre was located at 347 Main St.,  corner of N. Division, where One M&T Plaza is now located. The sign atop the building, ”New Site for Bank of Buffalo” hints of it’s eventual fate, as in 1917 The Bank of Buffalo opened on that site.  Photo courtesy of B&ECPL  

The Bank of Buffalo Building was built on the site of the Bijou Dream Theatre & other Buildings
Buffalo History Gazette Collection

   The Bank of Buffalo was located at the north-east corner of North Division & Main St. and designed by McKim, Mead & White of New York. The bank opened on September 11, 1917.  It was built on the site of the old nickelodeon “Bijou Dream Theatre” and other buildings. The Bank of Buffalo was incorporated on January 25, 1873 and originally located at Main & Seneca St. The Bank was consolidated with the Marine Trust Company in 1920.   (Buffalo History Gazette Collection)

   For those who will be leaving a comment, be aware that they will not appear immediately. All comments are moderated by myself to screen out spam comments which are numerous. I check every few days so be patient, if on topic they will appear.  Spam comments will not be tolerated so please, don't waste your time.
Thank You - Jerry Malloy