Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Author: Dennis McCann of the Journal Sentinel staff Pubdate: Sun, 18 Jan 1998 Contact: Fax: (414) 224-8280 Website: http://www.jsonline.com/ Editors note: Our newshawk writes: Another Sesquicentennial article from the J-S. My family had a brewery in Wisconsin that was raided during Prohibition, while operating under the guise of an ice cream factory! PROHIBITION'S INROADS IN STATE RAN INTO HEAVY RESISTANCE For 13 years, the grand experiment that was Prohibition staggered and teetered like the drunks it was supposed to have made extinct, forcing thirsty Americans to improvise but seldom to go without. Ultimately, it was the dry law that disappeared. The 1920s experience was not Wisconsin's first experience with controls on drink. In 1851, prohibitionists had forced a statewide referendum on the issue and won, 27,519 to 24,109. The Legislature declined to go along, however, and liquor remained legal until the nationwide ban 70 years later. But colorful as the era of bootleggers and "The Untouchables" seemed years later, Eliot Ness and all the G-men in America couldn't keep the spigots closed. By the early 1930s, beer was on its way back. Just as anti-German sentiment had added to the push for Prohibition, efforts to fight the ravages of the Great Depression helped bring it to an end. In Milwaukee, legal beer brewing would mean thousands of jobs, first for low-alcohol beer and later for the real stuff. Breweries geared up, even as politicians and wet and dry forces here and in Washington continued to haggle. When Milwaukeean Mary Eggert, still arguing for temperance, referred to "poisonous alcohol" at a 1931 hearing, Antigo Sen. James Barker objected. "Lady," he said, "I've been drinking alcohol for 55 years and I'm not poisoned." "You wouldn't act like that," Mary Eggert replied, "if you weren't poisoned mentally." Others sweated the details, whether the percentage of alcohol that would be set or the rate of tax. Some feared too high a tax would make the nickel glass of beer impossible. Hundreds attended hearings on beer regulation. But brewers, and many beer drinkers, kept their eye on the big picture and were more than ready when low-alcohol beer was legalized again on April 7, 1933. Lines formed early outside breweries, waiting for beer by the glass and by the barrel. Others stood outside their favorite former taverns, waiting for them to be transformed again. At 12:01, deliveries began, taps were opened, factory whistles blew and the party began. Trains and trucks began beer shipments within minutes, returning Milwaukee to its rightful status as brewer to America, and beer was even flown from Milwaukee that night to President Roosevelt in Washington. On April 17, when the city officially celebrated the end of this long, national nightmare, 20,000 people squeezed into the Auditorium to rejoice. As state Sen. H.W. Bolens had said during debate in Madison: "I am glad that the people of Wisconsin have returned to their senses. . . . "Happy days are here again."