During the 1920s when Prohibition laws forbade production and often sale of adult beverages local law enforcement officers faced major challenges, After all, there were those who wanted their booze and also those who were willing to provide it, so when officials tried to enforce the laws it was frequently far from routine.
One case was described in the August 26, 1926 Athens Weekly Review under the headline “Sheriff’s Department Raid Nets over 100 Bottles Home Brew.” The article described how Sheriff Morrow and Deputy Charley Pharris raided a local property where they found the spirited stash. In this incident three men were charged and pleaded guilty to vagrancy and were fined $12.80. However, locating the stuff proved difficult - as the reporter put it, “The officers found the home brew concealed in a secret chamber beneath the fire place.”
Apparently “vagrancy” was the usual charge in such cases but that was seemingly about to change. According to the reporter, Prohibition officials informed the sheriff that in the future the Federal courts would be handling these homebrew cases. But why? The reporter put it this way: ”Since the search and seizure has been in effect it has been almost impossible to convict in the county courts and as a result the guilty parties were usually left off with a vag fine.”
According to another article in the same paper, Sheriff Morrow and his deputies made other raids where they had seized “...a large quantity of booze, beer and home brew.” Five arrests were made.
This particular raid also seemed to have attracted local attention. The reporter wrote: ”Sunday afternoon motorists were able to almost trail the sheriff’s party over the route made as the raids were along the prominent highways and the smell of the hooch was strong as one approached the sites of the spilling beers.”
Card players like their brew of course, and since gambling was also illegal card parties were naturally a target for officers. One headline read, “Poker Game Raided by Sheriff’s Department” where “Five devotees of the national pastime of poker were taken unawares Wednesday night by Sheriff Morrow and his deputies.” The officers found “big quantities of beer and liquor” but though the hooch was confiscated there were no arrests for possession. However, the hosts had been ready for their guests, since the reporter said, “The beer was found some distance from a house and was iced ready to serve.” (And remember, this meant that someone had to lug in a block of ice or a supply of chipped ice.)
Of course often these and other offenders might have to appear in court, and that brought up another challenge faced in the Henderson County Courthouse at the time - the traffic noises coming through the open windows. In the days before central air conditioning this was of course a common occurrence.
The noise was such a problem in 1924 that Judge Ben F. Dent decided to do something about it.
“Judge Dent Favors Anti-Noise Campaign” was the headline in the September 11, 1924 Athens Weekly Review and the reporter took a bit of a humorous tone for the story. Judge Dent of the District Court, it seemed, had a problem with some noisy vehicles driving by. The reporter said: “Warm weather has made it necessary to leave all the doors and windows of the court house open and as consequence spurting fliver [sic], open cutouts, and the combined honking of cars make it almost impossible to hear evidence in the case.”
“Fliver” (also spelled “flivver”) was a slang term at the time for the Ford Model T, the first mass produced vehicle and a very popular type of car in the 1920s. According to one report the word was derived from a type of ship – specifically a type of Navy destroyer.
The reporter went into more detail: ”A time or two Judge Dent has sent officers down on the streets to make noisy flivers behave. But in his own domain the judge is seucring [sic] silence.” So how did he do it? “A miniature croquet mallet has been secured by the judge when the gentle zephys [sic] waft from the hall Judge Dent pounds long and loud.”
Judge Dent put it succinctly: “One has to sit on the bench to realize that Athens is sorely in need of an anti-noise campaign.”