Let’s Talk Prohibition: The Raid on Saturn

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Let’s Talk Prohibition: The Raid on Saturn

As we near the hundredth anniversary of Saturn’s current clubhouse, I’ve been thinking back on the numerous other important anniversaries coming up at the club. I have to say my next favorite is the Prohibition Raid that happened in 1923.

Saturn, in its earliest days, was of course, no stranger to the more than occasional noise complaint from a neighbor, or the grudging return to the Club of a member’s decanter left on another doorstep. It seems the threat of a visit from the local Police was always on the minds of the young members. A particularly hilarious prank was played on March 26, 1898, during a boxing (or perhaps wrestling) match held at the club, where member Jesse Dann arranged for a pretend police raid by three actors dressed in a police uniform. 

“A police captain entered, with two officers, all in uniform, and for a time there was great excitement and dismay. It was said that “bank presidents and reverend D.D.’s slid from their chairs like turtles off a log that they might not be found present when the roll was called.”
- Hundred Years of Saturn, page 19

It is important to note that in the beginning, Saturn was a small club, hosted in the homes of members on Saturday nights. “Liquor was a constant concern” (Hundred Years of Saturn, page 6). In the founding years, the club couldn’t afford a liquor license, so members bought liquor and others helped themselves, depositing money into a cash box. The club was in a smaller location before moving into the current clubhouse at 977 Delaware on October 21, 1922, just short of a year before the famous raid.

To put the Raid in better context, the 1800s were full of anti-alcohol movements. Although the pace of change was interrupted by the Civil War from 1861-1864, by the beginning World War I in 1914, the movement had reached a fever pitch. At the end of World War I in 1918, Prohibitionists moved quickly to turn public ideals into law.



The abuse and mistrust of alcohol were magnified by poverty, lack of opportunity and the morality of the day.
 
Prohibition was also especially interesting in Buffalo. Our city is situated in a unique location next to Canada, who did not outlaw alcohol. The international border wasn’t exactly monitored by radar in those days, and an enterprising American could pilot a boat to a Canadian port, verbally swear they were Canadian, and purchase as much liquor as they wanted. This made Buffalo’s ports a hot spot for smuggling.  
 
So with all this in mind, let’s refer now to an excerpt from 100 Years at Saturn:





 
Posted: 8/11/2021 2:32:32 PM by Elizabeth Graves | with 0 comments


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