Roadhouses Main Target of Grant County Drys
The last local option election in Kentucky this year will be held December 12 in Grant County.
Why? What was wrong that made 1,00 voters sign the petition for this election? What would voting dry mean to Williamstown and the county? What are the drys saying? What are the wets doing?
I came here to find the answers to those questions, to look behind the scenes in a county that both sides believe will become the fourteenth to vote dry this year.
I met a committee representing the drys - The Rev. O. W. Robinson, Methodist pastor; L. M. Ackerman, attorney, and Gus Threkeld, farmer. Mr. Ackerman was the spokesperson.
"We North Kentuckians up here in Grant County are independent people," he said, "We didn't take well to prohibition back in 1918. And when liquor came back we decided to give it a fair chance. We took the industry at its word the business would be conducted decently."
"And what happened? Anybody could get a license that wanted one. They lined US 25 with joints on both sides of the road. They sold beer and bootlegged whiskey on Sundays, catered to minors and habitual drunks, and allowed lewd women to hang around."
"Conditions got so bad 75 per cent of the evidence in divorce cases in this county stemmed from roadhouses. Automobile wrecks increased, and fully 63 per cent of them were caused directly or indirectly by beer joints."
"But that is not all. The straw that broke the camel's back was piled on when they put slot machines in the roadhouses. They divided the county into districts, just like Newport or Covington. It was 'I take this, you take that.' I know nothing that the decent citizens hold in lower contempt than slot machines. So we decided to break it up."
I asked Mr. Ackerman if he believes voting the county dry would stop the sale and consumption of liquor.
"Of course not," he answered. "Those who want it will buy it outside. We know that. But by voting this county dry we serve noticed on our enforcement officers we do not intend to tolerate flagrant violations of the law, whether relating to roadhouses or something else."
Clifford McGee, beer distributor at Dry Ridge, and Moody Crouch, beer distributor at Williamstown, will direct the wet campaign. Mr. McGee was on vacation, but I reached Mr. Crouch by telephone.
"We haven't made our plans," he said, "It's too early. I don't suppose we will start until about two weeks before the election. That will be soon enough, we think."
"Instead of people talking wet and dry, they ought to be buying war bonds," Mr. Crouch continued. "This is no time to divide the people. Everybody ought to be united behind the war."
"Forty percent of the people who signed that petition don't pay many taxes, if any. I expect most of them don't realize what a 16 cent raise in the tax rate would mean,"
Mr. Crouch was referring to the money Grant County and Williamstown would lose in tax revenue if the drys win. Williamstown, it was figured by Clerk Clyde Caldwell, would lose $1,270 in direct and indirect taxes if the four package stores and seven beer licenses are put out of business.
The loss would amount to 18 percent of Williamstown's annual revenue. I asked Mayor J. B. Miller what he thinks about it.
"That is not fearful," he said, "I believe the people will be willing to make it up in other places."
"The trouble lies in Frankfort," said County Judge Charles A. Pettit. "They set up the Alcoholic Control Board, pitched all the responsibility to the counties, then sat back and watched the millions roll in."
"The county won't lose but $400 or $500 if it votes dry, and that is part of the trouble. We get the headaches and the State gets the cash. The state ought to have plowed some of its millions back into enforcement and supervision."
"This thing was too big for the counties to handle. Local officials, in the first place, don't have much tax revenue at stake if a county votes dry. In the second place, local politics ties most of them down. You take me. Most of the beer dealers out here voted for me. I can't jump in against them. You know how it is as well as I do."
"And all this time the State was sitting back watching the money roll in. The State didn't stir itself until the dry petition was in circulation. Then they jumped in and jerked half the dealers before the board in Frankfort. But the State jumped too late. It is no need to lock the stable door after the horse has been stolen."
"If the truth was known, I expect war mania is at the bottom of these counties voting dry. The young men are in the Army, the old men are away working on war jobs, and the folks back home are excited," Judge Pollitt declared.
by Allen Trout,
from the Louisville Courier Journal, October 29, 1942.