Wednesday April 16, 2014




Prohibition in Saskatchewan

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Railway Street in my home village of Dollard, southwest Saskatchewan in 1916. The quiet scene — perhaps on a Sunday when businesses were closed, but it could have been on a week day because at the time of the photo, the bar at Hotel Dollard was shut tight, as were all bars in Saskatchewan following the enactment of Prohibition Legislation on July 1, 1915. What followed was a drastic drop of income in the hotel business. It was not supposed to be that way. Bars serving hard liquor, wine and beer were legal in the Province, as settlement began in the southwest region in 1908. All were hoping for prosperity, when villages and towns sprang up on the new Weyburn-Lethbridge Canadian Pacific Railway line. Shaunavon, next to Dollard became a big town overnight in 1913. The builder of Hotel Dollard was T. St. Hilaire, a Franco-American who had also homesteaded in the district. The fact that there were three storeys and an elaborate bar in this hotel attests to the builder's dreams of financial success. And, why not? There were a lot of travelling salesmen in those years. There were homesteaders at every quarter or every half section of land, there were ranchers, and 5 elevators were erected. It was a thriving village; and one hotel with the bar business was considered a profitable venture.

And so, "Prohibition" became a hated word with all those who were suffering financial losses. Hotels had to concentrate on the restaurant business, renting rooms and halls for local festivities. Some hotel owners went out of business. It did not take long for many drinking men and some hotel owners to find a solution — brewing your own liquor! They boldly brewed and defied the laws. Drinking went on in hotel rooms, livery stables, grain elevator offices, tradesmen's shops; etc. With these turn of events, not all women's lives would be improved as it had been portrayed by the prohibition movement! Inevitably, many wives became involved in the brewing and in the selling of the homebrew. Instead of drinking in bars, men now also drank at home with their buddies. Women had to make more meals for visitors, answer the door when the police came calling, cover for their husbands brewing activities, and for too many, still deal with drunk husbands' neglect and abuse as they had done before Prohibition of July 1, 1915!

The story of Prohibition to be continued—

Contact Terri Lefebvre Prince, Heritage Researcher,
City of Yorkton Archives, Box 400, 37 Third Avenue North
Yorkton, Sask. S3N 2W3 306-786-1722 herit...@yorkton.ca


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