Author John Schlarbaum’s commissioned prose poem for the “Canada 150” heritage project, From This Day Forward.
A Thirst for Adventure
1917 – 1921
As our brave boys fought valiantly overseas for
life, liberty and freedom of choice, the righteous
sermonized that banning booze would restore
Canada’s unravelling social moral fabric.
A dubious victory turned work into play for ecstasiated
crime bosses and speedy entrepreneurs. Meanwhile,
the law and elected officials turned a blind eye to
the speakeasy and blind pigs drinking dens.
British Columbians were a people born as wet as the
Juan de Fuca Strait’s waves navigated by bootleggers
in the dead of the night. A risky trade, illegal for all.
Fortunes were built with every forbidden drink sold
and, with any delivery, tall tales were told … of high
speed pursuits over choppy channels to evade local
authorities or the dry State’s F.B.I. and Coastguard below.
One hundred ships strong silently passing each other
under the stars; many to the sides of The Malahat lumber
Schooner, the grand five-masted Queen of Rum Row
from which spirits flowed freely for years.
An elaborate social experiment gone wrong, fought
in hushed corners and dead-end alleys, by shadowy
people with bribes and alcohol clutched in hand.
Strange bedfellows indeed: On the very same
Referendum, to enact prohibition, women got The Vote.
Let’s raise a glass to Victory!