Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cartoon Speakeasy

A friend of mine rents out apartments in San Francisco and frequently comes across odd and quirky little buildings. Recently he alerted me to this gem of a basement which was used as a speakeasy during the prohibition years which ran from 1920 to 1933 when the eighteenth amendment was repealed.  It's under this pretty respectable looking Victorian house up towards Twin Peaks.

This tiny basement is decorated with the popular cartoons of the day including Barney Google and Popeye.

You can see some buttons on the front of the sink here which would be used to communicate with the house upstairs in the event of trouble.  Speakeasy's were also called Blind Pigs.  This was a way of circumnavigating the law by offering the viewing of an attraction such as a curious animals (Greenland pigs were popular for some reason) during which a complimentary cocktail could be offered, thus circumnavigating the law.

A lot of the cartoons are signed by Doug Hale 1926.  Some of them are pretty risque, particularly this casting couch one.  Hubba hubba.

There is a handy slanted escape hatch at the back which leads into an alleyway behind the building and through to another street.

San Francisco was ground zero for bootlegging due to its coastal proximity and the hidden inlets around the bay which were used for running liquor.  There was also lax enforcement of the laws by sympathetic cops.

The ceiling was incredibly low.  I'm 6'1" tall and was unable to stand upright.  All the more reason to drink more and fall down I suppose.

There's a fascinating KQED radio show about prohibition in San Francisco here.

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