Readers of the Kearney Daily Hub on August 16, 1930, must have been startled to read that 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 the Hub insisted:
“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. As a matter of fact the proprietor of one such ‘Oasis’ informed the writer, without pledging him to a bond of secrecy, that at least one Kearney preacher and one police officer guzzled the foaming amber fluid over his ‘bar’ on frequent occasions.
“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 fifth 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.
“Patronage was not confined to local citizens, by any means. Cars, bearing the license plates of many states, rolled up so that their passengers might enjoy a foaming stein. The word seems to have gone out that beer, and good beer, is to be had here in abundance and that the price is right.
“And no whispering such as one associates with a ‘speakeasy.’ Nothing of the kind. A business man and his party 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.’ You could have heard that order a block away. Up they come, down they go and back to the bar for a refill. A licking of the ‘chops,’ a mopping of the chin and they’re on their way again, their body temperatures lowered a few notches and their faces beaming in contented smiles.
“We made the rounds. Visited about a score of similar dispensaries. Lapped up one about every so often and enjoyed it. Nothing boisterous about the patrons of these places of business. No disorderly conduct there. In fact they might be recommended as places where you can meet nice people, if you crave companionship.
“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.”
Advertisement from the Kearney Daily Hub of June 10, 1931.
This undated photograph depicted a Lincoln root beer stand shaped like a root beer mug. NSHS RG2158-2264