Sunday, August 26, 2012

Illegal Alcohol & Student Behavior in 1938 (71)


I ran across a small item on student drinking and alcohol sales in the 1938 Davis Enterprise that prompts a number of observations and questions.

The item, reproduced here, concerns two students allegedly purchasing too-strong beer from a retailer in Davis and Dean Knowles Ryerson complaining to the Chamber of Commerce directors about it.

First, the implied alcohol consumption scene in Davis is certainly light years away from Davis today. A mere two students make a “brawl” and get themselves dismissed from the college. Talk about “things have changed.”

Second, drunken behavior among students was an on-going reason for dismissal? What would we do for students if we applied that standard today?

Third, notice that Ryerson’s seeming first line of response is to go to the directors of the Chamber of Commerce rather than to the police or the City Council. I take this to mean that Ryerson was a rational actor and accurately targeted people with the most power to do something about a student-drinking problem. In a number of ways, the Chamber of Commerce was pretty much the government of Davis in the 1930s.

Fourth, selling a mild form of beer was apparently legal in Davis in 1938. This seeming fact brings to my attention my own lack of knowledge of exactly what sorts of alcohol were banned in what form in what years in Davis.

I am not aware of any account that gives us the years in which it was legal or not legal to purchase what form of alcohol in a bar or eating place or for retail-take-away. Does anyone know of such an account?

Fifth, the topic of booze makes me notice how little attention is given the topic of alcohol in the Davis Enterprise or in other reports on Davis doings.

More precisely, there was a fair amount of reporting on it before the 1911 three-mile ban, but not so much after that. I think this is one of the reasons this little story from 1938 caught my attention.