The liquor prohibition law is missing

Joshua Waddles
Staff Writer

As the legend goes, voters made Hot Spring County a dry county during World War II when many of the voters were away at war. As of right now, that legend and years of tradition are the only proof we have that Hot Spring County is a dry county at all.

The law, which must have passed sometime after 1942, is missing. There are no records of it online and no one at the Hot Spring County Courthouse has been able to find it.

According to a history book at the courthouse, a group called the Ministerial Alliance petitioned for an election in 1943 and that election ended in Hot Spring County being declared a dry county. This action was made possible after an amendment passed in 1942. The Anti Saloon League pushed for an amendment related to alcohol. This amendment was not a prohibition in its self, Prohibition had recently ended. But it authorized counties to require petitions of 15 percent of voters rather than 35 percent in order to make changes to the laws regarding sales of alcohol.

Copies of the Malvern Daily Record from about that time show several columns and advertisements from the Anti Saloon League. One ad, titled “Don’t let the whiskey, wine and beer boys fool you again,” explained that Act 1 (which included the amendment change) was neither a vote for prohibition nor against it. The ad then claimed that over $20 were lost for every dollar of revenue received and called for donations. One column, titled “What next, Mr. Liquor Man?” claimed pro liquor advocates were attempting to wash the blood off of their hands in the pool of a “tax return justification” and the Malvern Daily Record of the time, when listing each act before the election, even went so far as to include “VOTE YES ON ACT 1” in giant bold letters (with similar advice, either yes or no, on every other act listed.)

But although we have a lot of indirect information about Act 1, several agencies have been unable to find anything regarding the actual law prohibiting alcohol in Hot Spring County. Kinney Black, with the Hot Spring County Historical Society, knows there were “honkey tonks” and other establishments serving alcohol in the early 40s and these establishments suddenly disappeared. He’s also talked to several elders in the community, but hasn’t found anyone who remembered the details of the prohibition law being passed.

Record keepers at the Hot Spring County Courthouse theorize that the law might be in Jones Mill, another location where they keep records.

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