Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When Florence Went Wet

It was about this time, thirty years ago.

Previously, the legal sale of alcoholic beverages was voted on by individual counties; and this pattern prevailed:  a small marjority of voter within Florence voted "wet"; but an overwhelming number of Lauderdale County voters outside of Florence voted "dry."  This effectively kept Lauderdale County "dry."  But, really, about as dry as a bar rag.

You see, bootleggers were commonly known to be in operation; additionally, you could get beer in neighboring Lawrence County in Tennessee.  As a matter of fact, the beer store on the state line had the largest beer cooler I've ever seen.  If you wanted liquor, that was legally available in Huntsville, sold in the state package stores.  [How about this socialism, Alabama-style]

But the Bible Belt loosened in the early 1980's.  Nearby Colbert County voted "wet" and made it more convenient to purchase alcohol.

But in 1981 the State Legislature passed an act allowing municipalities of over 10,000 residents to vote independently on whether alchol would be sold.  Florence voted by itself.  There was a lot of money spent on the campaign.  Some individuals darkly suggested that the bootleggers were bankrolling the "drys'" campaign -- plausible, in my book.  Anyway, the "wets"won -- in a few weeks we had the sale of alcohol, but with a chastity belt set of restrictions.  The City Council did not want saloons, nosiree!  Therefore, the only establishments who could sell alcohol were restaurants!  Beer could be sold in convenience stores.

Still, happy days finally came!

The significance of the "wet" vote was that the issue became a symbolic campaign.  It was over what kind of community Florence, Alabama was to be.  Prior to the vote, the churches (or at least the Baptist Church and the Church of Christ ran things and effectively policed morality.  It was the radicals who ventured to the movies on Sunday night, and blue law closings were the rule for stores.  And bluenoses felt free to criticize what people or their children wore!  And the dead hand of an oppressive rectitude was felt in a variety of ways.

But no longer!  Florence joined Huntsville and Colbert County as islands of relative permissiveness within the Bible Belt.


  1. The blue laws actually made drinking more fun.

  2. Possibly that was the case. Making alcohol legal deprived Florence residents of one way to be wicked if they chose.

  3. All in all, Alabama cities that went wet did not regret doing so. As a matter of fact, there was liteally dancing in the streets in some!

    Gulf Shores/Orange Beach is a place in Alabama that is really easygoing. Girls can were thongs there, and beer can be carried on the beaches.