History Nebraska Blog

Plenty of Beer in Kearney

Readers of the Kearney Daily Hub on August 16, 1930, must have been startled to read that during the hot summer days, there was “Plenty of Beer to be Had in Kearney and Many Imbibe It.” State and federal prohibition then in effect should have made the claim unlikely. Yet a reporter for the Hub insisted: Advertisement from the Kearney Daily Hub of June 10, 1931 (below).

“The making of beer has become quite an industry in Kearney. Scores are engaged in its manufacture and sale and its consumers are numbered by the thousands. Everybody’s doing it, that is drinking it. These dispensaries are being run with full knowledge of the police department, and, if you please, without protest on the part of the ministerial association members. . . .

“Women patrons? Dozens of ‘em. Children too. With our nozzle buried to the hilt in foam and our peepers blinking over the rim, we saw ‘em. Youngsters, so diminutive in size they could not look over the counter, calling for their beer-and getting it. And boy how they do lap it up. At this particular emporium it kept one barkeep busy mopping up, so fast did they sling ‘em out. Special car parking space had to be provided to accommodate the traffic. Four bartenders were shooting along mugs as fast as their somewhat congested space permitted, while a fourth sought to accommodate the trade outside.

“Curb service, sure. If they were all lined up at the bar it would have turned into a riot. . . . And no whispering such as one associates with a ‘speakeasy.’ Nothing of the kind. A businessman and his party will pull up in their machine, with a thirst such as only 100 degrees in the shade can provide and the order is roared forth ‘four beers and make it snappy.’”

This 1931 photograph depicted a Lincoln root beer stand shaped like a root beer mug. NSHS RG2158-2264 (above).

The reporter confessed,

“We made the rounds. Visited about a score of similar dispensaries. . . . The morning after. Oh, not so bad. In fact, other than leaving a craving for another stein, the assignment left one none the worse for wear. No dark brown taste, no headache. Nothing hazy, mentally. Which is to the advantage of this new business-the root beer industry. May it thrive and prosper.”

– Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

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