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Loyola Students Fight Over Keg At Prohibition's End In 1933 Video

By Linze Rice | May 2, 2017 6:26am | Updated on May 2, 2017 8:31am
 Students at Loyola University play an
Students at Loyola University play an "odd pushball game" to win a keg of beer in 1933.
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ROGERS PARK — An archival video from 1933 shows the lengths students at Loyola went to have a beer in the final days of Prohibition.

The footage from Nov. 11 of that year shows freshmen and sophomores at Loyola on a field that is now the school's track field engaging in what's dubbed an "odd pushball game." The two groups are all vying for the same prize: a keg of precious beer. 

The video shows a swarm of thirsty students at opposite goal posts racing to the middle of the field, where a huge ball sits.

Students desperately chase the ball and maneuver it through the crowd, tripping and trampling over one another, until the younger bunch is able to land the ball in its winning place. 

At last, a student with a wooden barrel keg secured tightly within his arms emerges from the field surrounded by cheering supporters. 

Inside the keg was likely low-alcohol beer with around 3.2 percent alcohol-by-volume, the maximum amount allowed at the time after President Franklin Roosevelt's signing of the Cullerton-Harrison Act in spring 1933.

That July, Illinois was the tenth state to hold the nation's first and only series of state ratification conventions in which lawmakers voted to do away with the ban on alcohol.

The student competition was held during a gray period at the tail end of the state and nation's ban on booze through the 18th Amendment — an era that would notoriously come to shape Chicago's reputation and future forever with speakeasies, corruption and famous bootleggers like Al Capone. 

Had the game been played just three weeks later, a stronger beer (or even liquor) would have been legal, but it would also mean mostly only female students could partake in the keg's contents due to the state's drinking age laws that considered young women more mature than young men.

National Film Archives

National Film Archives

From 1872-1961, Illinois' legal age to drink was dictated by the "age of majority" — a concept that referred to when a person was considered an adult. 

Prior to Prohibition, Illinois said alcohol couldn't be sold to or consumed by "minors," unless they had permission from a guardian or doctor.

Once Prohibition was repealed nationally on Dec. 5, 1933, Illinois kept its "age of majority" laws but tightened the definition to say women could drink at age 18, while men had to wait until they were 21. 

Why? It was argued women matured quicker, and, therefore, became adults before men — an idea that angered some

State law remained that way until 1961 when Gov. Otto Kerner signed a law that raised the age to 21 for women as well. 

In 1973, state lawmakers lowered the drinking age for beer and wine to 19, but kept it at 21 for hard liquor. In 1980, it was changed back to 21 for all alcoholic beverages, where it remains today. 

But not everyone was on board when Prohibition was repealed. 

The "local option" gave areas the right to maintain dry areas, which many Chicago neighborhoods and some surrounding suburbs did. 

This year, suburban Kenilworth voted to lift its ban on liquor. Other towns who had also remained dry in Prohibition's wake, like Evanston, Oak Park and Park Ridge, have also decided to sell alcohol over the years. 

Even before Prohibition began nationwide in 1920, areas that would later become Chicago fought over the idea. 

In 1890, prior to incorporation into the city, West Ridge and Rogers Park sparred by throwing cabbages at one another in an event dubbed the "Cabbage Wars" in part because the two townships could not agree on whether or not to allow alcohol sales.

Today, dry districts, usually on a block-by-block basis, remain throughout Chicago, including in Rogers Park. 

From 5-7 p.m. May 14, the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society will hold a "Legal Limits" historical bar crawl through the neighborhood, exploring the Far North Side's sordid past with booze.