Monmouth Prohibition: 10 Years Later
Monmouth, Oregon is my hometown. I haven't lived there since I finished high school, and I don't plan on ever living there again, but it's where I grew up. Back in 2002, a couple months after I left for college, the town voted to get rid of its most notable feature: its status as the last dry town on the West Coast.
It was a controversial issue and it had been ever since 1859 when the town founders incorporated the town primarily so that they could get rid of a local shop owner who was selling whiskey out of his store. In 2012, ten years after Monmouth voted to allow beer and wine sales within its city limits, I was back in town. I wanted to know what had changed and what hadn't. I started talking with people. Then I talked with more people.
I ended up producing two very different versions of the story: one is a short news piece and the other is a 20 minute radio documentary. I've also included below a few short 60-90 second pieces that didn't fit in either of those two versions of the story, but which add a little local flavor and speak to what it was like living in a dry Monmouth.
Ten Years After Prohibition Vote, Little Changes In Monmouth, Oregon
Towns build identities from the stories they tell about themselves. In Monmouth, Oregon, those stories were about the town’s most distinguishing feature: prohibition. Monmouth was the last dry town on the West Coast. Ten years ago, residents voted to change that.
-This version aired on Oregon Public Broadcasting.
I'm interested in stories about identity. In this case, the identity of a town. Growing up in Monmouth, I knew how important the town's dry status was to some people. Even though it probably hurt the town economically more than it helped socially or otherwise, many residents saw it as the feature that made their town unique. Without it, they said, Monmouth would become another one of the many indistinguishable small Oregon towns. This tension, the idea of holding onto something that is hurting you because it is a major part of what defines you, I think is what drew me to this story.
This version aired on KMUZ in Salem, Oregon. The full hour on KMUZ included an interview with me and the former Mayor of Monmouth Paul Evens. I've included the two interview segments below:
Not Drinking in Monmouth
"It wasn't exactly as though they didn't believe in drinking, they just didn't believe in drinking in Monmouth."
This short story is told by long-time Monmouth resident Scott McArthur.
Picking Up Beer Cans
The prohibition on alcohol sales did not prevent people in Monmouth from drinking. Residents could drive one mile to the town next door and buy it at any number of stores. People would often discard their empty beer cans along the country road that my grandfather walked every day to work. He maintains that he made enough from the five cent can deposits to buy a new pair of walking shoes each year.
This short story is told by my grandfather, Gary Huxford.
If You Were One of the Locals
In the old days, if you were a local and you knew the right people, you didn't even have to leave town. You could go to the back of the local hardware store and get a whiskey for a quarter.
This short story is told by Scott McArthur.
The Wine List
"Around Monmouth in probably a 10 mile radius, maybe a 20 mile radius, we've got 35-40 wineries I'd say." Until 2003 none of these local wines could be sold in Monmouth.
This short story is told by Josh Brandt, owner of Monmouth's first wine bar.