18 October 2017


RyeToday’s Wednesday Word is two:  “blind tiger”.  I recently came across this term in the August 16, 1917 edition of the Washington County News in a humorous article entitled “Her ‘Meatless Day'”.

This is the article:

     The day after Prosecuting Attorney Horace G. Murphy and his deputies and constables made a Sunday morning raid on a Muncie “blind tiger” and arrested 59 persons found there, many of the men going to jail on various charges, the wife of one of those whose fate it was to be locked up was confiding in Billy Blamey, the elevator man at the Wyson building, in which Murphy has his office, says the Indianapolis News.
      “I’m considerably worried,” she told him “about my Sunday dinner yesterday and thought Mr. Murphy might straighten things out. You see, my husband started away from home about ten o’clock in the morning to get some meat for dinner and said he intended to stop in at the club (all “tigers” are clubs in Muncie) and get a bottle of beer on the way, like he always does Sundays. Well he hasn’t brought that meat home yet, and meat nowadays costs too much to waste.”


Other than the presumption that Mrs. Mam was more concerned with the whereabouts of her dinner-meat than her errant husband, the article makes clear that a blind tiger was a place where one could get a drink.  Not just any drink, though, one with alcohol in it.    Unfortunately, as was also pretty clear, Mr. Man’s beverage choice, the establishment or “club” he drank it in, or both was illegal.    God Forbid!

By 1917 Prohibition had arrived for the second time in Alabama, a good five years before the federal amendment banned the sale of alcohol across the entire United States.  Many thirsty Alabamians were forced underground in order to “wet their whistle.” Literally.  UNDERGROUND.  Caves such as Desoto Caverns, Bangor, Shelta and Sauta, were used as blind tigers. And they weren’t just holes in the wall, [or rather the ground], they had electricity, seating, bars,  bandstands, decorations, dining and dancefloors.


Bangor Cave Bar

Bangor Caves operating during Prohibition during the 1930s.   (Encyclopedia of Encyclopedia of Alabama)


Now it is unclear how these “clubs” came to be known by the sobriquet, although there is some speculation.  Perhaps it was because some operators would charge patrons to see an oddity, like a real-live blind tiger, and sneak them a complimentary libation on the way out.  Perhaps it was because buyers were buying “blindly,” not knowing the identity of the bar owners or the quality of the beverages they were being served.  Perhaps, if you were drinking in a cave in Alabama and the lights went out, one would feel “blind” doddering around in the dark, murky-minded from the booze. Perhaps the why of the name is simply lost to history; and really when it all comes down to it, the name of the drinking establishment is much less important than the fact that it is there.

While the aforementioned cave bars are no longer in operation,  you can still get a drink in a cave in Alabama, albeit legally.  The Rattlesnake Saloon in Tuscumbia, Alabama offers music, dining and a unique atmosphere, where one can almost imagine they are clandestinely meeting for a prohibited drink.  The Rattlesnake is on my list of places I must visit and when I do, I’ll raise a glass to Mr. Man and his ilk.


For more information about Unusual Alabama Prohibition-Era Blind Tigers, see AL.com’s December 5, 2014 article entitled 7 Places Alabamians Bought Illicit Liquor During Prohibition, Including Speakeasy Caves, Underground Tunnels.

5 September 2017

Just over a month ago, I wrote about an ongoing project that I am working on (See 2 August 2017), transcribing old editions of The Washington County News, the weekly newspaper of my home.  While it is imbedded with little snippets of humor,  most of which I won’t even claim to understand because I guess you had to have been there to get it, some of the funniest entries I’ve come across in the papers are the medical ads.  Yes, that’s right, the medical ads.

Now I’m pretty sure, or at the very least pretty hopeful, that these tonics, balms and elixirs pedaled in small-town newspapers across the country at the turn of the twentieth century,  were actually thought of as cures by their manufacturers and not grand money-making ruses.   But, viewing it from a “modern” vantage point, they seem pretty nonsensical; like Castoria that was touted to cure fever, sleeplessness, diarrhea and constipation in infants or Oxidine that was said to cure biliousness, fever, chills and even MALARIA!  Cure-all medications that could be conveniently mail-ordered or purchased at any local druggist for less than $1.00.

One of the advertisers of these wonder drugs that has repeatedly caught my eye is the Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company, who manufactured a vegetable compound for the cure of feminine ills.  Back aches, nervousness, sparks before the eyes, blues and even an impending sense of doom, apparently all documented symptoms of female weakness, didn’t stand a chance against this magic tonic.  See for yourself:


So when I came across an old Lydia E. Pinkham Cosco-sized medicine bottle in a local estate sale, its contents long-since drained by some haggard Southern woman,  I couldn’t help but smile, giggle, and immediately purchase the darn old thing.

Lydia Pinkham bottleHere’s to you Mrs. Lydia E. Pinkham and to your vegetable compound for still curing the blues almost 100 years later!


9 August 2017

Here is a pickle recipe from today’s edition of the Washington County News dated 1917.

Good Pickle Receipt

“Now that the time is here for making pickles, the following receipt, known as ‘Hayden’s Salad,’ is given,”  writes Miss Marjorie Woods to the News.  “One gallon of ripe tomatoes, one gallon of cabbage,one quart of onions, one-half dozen green peppers.  Run cabbage, onions, and peppers through meat chopper and sprinkle with salt and let drain.  Add three tablespoons of mustard, two tablespoons of turmeric, one of cloves, one of celery seed, one of cinnamon, three pounds of sugar and one-half gallon of vinegar.  Mix and boil one-half hour.”

–B’ham News

I’m thinking of trying this recipe, so I put in a modern recipe form to make it easier to follow when I begin preparing it.

Hayden’s Salad

One gallon tomatoes, (peeled) chopped

One gallon cabbage, chopped

One quart onions, chopped

12 green bell peppers, chopped

1 cup salt

Chop tomatoes, cabbage, onions, and bell peppers and mix in large bowl.  Sprinkle the mixture with 1 cup salt and let stand for approximately 30 minutes, or until well drained.

3 TBSP. ground mustard

2 TBSP.  Tumeric

1TBSP. Cloves

1 TBSP. Celery Seed

1 TBSP. Cinnamon

3 LBS.  Sugar

1/2 GAL.  White Vinegar

Add the vegetable mixture, spices, sugar and vinegar to a large pot and bring to a slow boil.  Boil for thirty minutes.  Fill  in hot prepared pint jars and seal.  Makes approximately 12 pints.

If you try this recipe, please post pictures.  I will do the same.

Happy Canning!