The rough streets and the smart-aleck newswriting of the Depression era keep calling me back.

This week I was captivated by two stories from The Courier-Gazette on the raid of the "Bachelors' Club" in February 1931.

Prohibition was still in effect, thus the headline for the first story was "SOUNDS LIKE CHICAGO," but the writing in the next week's followup article, Feb. 14, was much more vivid.

"The charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, recently described on the screen at Park Theatre, was reenacted on a somewhat reduced scale when the sheriffs, State police, local police and probation officer climbed to the dizzying heights of Moffitt block and stormed the citadel occupied by the Bachelor's Club," the article said in the lede.

There was no byline, or I would surely give credit to the great author here. The earlier article noted the building was at 362 Main St., which a city directory for 1929 tells me was the J.J. Newberry Co.'s address. The impression I get is a large building with multiple tenants on different floors. According to "Shore Village Story," our city's history book, the building was known as the Moffitt Block, which would burn down in 1943.

"Our story has told how the gallant enforcers of the prohibitory law climbed the several flights leading to the home of the Bachelors' Club; how they paused for breath on each landing; and how Deputy Ludwick struck his mailed fist against the outer portal."

The club was on the third story of the building and the previous story did not, in fact, mention their needing to pause for breath, though it did describe the club they assaulted as an "oasis for the thirsty." The speakeasy was protected behind a sturdy locked door with a peephole. One assumes people had to say some sort of password or name the person who referred them there before admittance.

"Somebody from the interior pushed back the lid which covered the peek-hole, got a hasty view of the impressive column which had mounted to the head of the stairway, and the lid was hastily swung shut.

"'Let fall the portcullis!' demanded Deputy Ludwick in the stentorian tones which won him distinction in the days of high school declamations.

"But the inside guardian of the portal hadn't evidently studied ancient history — not that far back anyhow, and the door continued to maintain an impassive front."

The door would not yield to the shoulders of the officers, but they soon found other doors and busted in to find a gambling operation and illegal drinking establishment complete with a regulation bar and a nickel machine. Those inside were hastily dumping alcohol down the sink and out the windows.

The entire scene created an "internal din which strongly suggested that a bull had broken into the china shop."

"The sink had become the receptacle for a beverage which had evidently been intended for tanks which had stronger linings than mere iron, and into the concoction had been poured a bottle of ammonia the contents of which were strong enough to stun an ox at 40 paces. Patrolman Eddie Ingraham isn't an ox, and he was much closer to the sink than 40 paces, and how he survived is just as easily explained as how he untangles traffic at the corner of Main Street and Tillson Avenue when the trolley cars are passing through."

"…You have heard what happened to the sink, but listen children and you shall hear how there were certain other decorations which suddenly left the clubroom via the window route. Of the five gallon can whose swishing contents landed just abaft of Probation Officer Webster's starboard ear as he stood on the Elm Street side of Moffitt block keeping a sharp eye out that nobody stole the sheriff's automobile."

That would be embarrassing for the sheriff.

The officer below now found it to be raining containers of alcohol.

"Bing! a pitcher whizzed past his other ear, and its 72 broken sections lodged in the open cellar back of Oh Gee's Chinese laundry.

"Bing! Another pitcher followed in the same general direction, and whoever runs a lawn mower over the spot where it struck is going to say a lot of things that will not sound real orthodox in such close proximity to a police station."

Two were arrested. "Under the last named heading came Richard Canty, the good looking and good natured personage who was presiding over the realm to thirsty bachelors; and Joseph Humphrey, another nice looking lad whose musical specialty appears to have been: 'What Are You Going To Do When the Rent Comes Due?'"

"The vast army of unemployed gathered in the Council chambers for Thursday's hearings…"

In the end our two handsome bartenders faced fines, jail time (two to three months) and probation.

The final line in the story was: "Meantime what is to become of those poor bachelors?"

The Prohibition era is interesting. On the one hand, most seem to agree in retrospect that enforcing a universal ban on alcohol was unrealistic and impractical. And yet today we confront similar questions, ranging from recreational marijuana to the opioid epidemic.

Dad always liked to say "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."

Watching current events while keeping an eye on history, I think Peter Pan writer J.M. Barrie said it best: “All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.”

Editor Daniel Dunkle of The Courier-Gazette lives in Rockland. Send in your stories, photos and memories via email at: ddunkle@villagesoup.com; or snail mail to: 91 Camden St., Suite 403, Rockland, ME 04841.

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