Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Shiners Were Tolerated in Dry County

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Shiners Were Tolerated in Dry County

Article excerpt

The attitude of residents of Clay County about alcohol has never

been clear-cut. Public opinion meandered from one extreme to

another but generally waffled in the middle. Basically people

minded their own business and didn't care as long as it didn't

interfere with them.

In 1907, the number of bars and saloons in the county and the

riotous behavior of their patrons had aggravated enough people

so that the county voted itself dry.

It was not unusual for gangs of young men to arrive in Green

Cove Springs on a Friday night to kick up their heels drinking

and gambling at J.L. Kirkpatrick's. Good people couldn't walk

the streets without witnessing a fight or being challenged by a

young tough. Then come Sunday morning, they might have to step

over drunks passed out on the boardwalks.

Clay County stayed dry until the 1960s. People who used alcohol

either drove to an adjacent "wet" county to get it or purchased

it from local brewers. Patrons in the northern part of the

county traveled to Jacksonville. After the Shands Bridge was

completed in the early '30s, southern residents wanting to

imbibe crossed into St. Johns County.

The narrow, wooden bridge, rickety when new, was a challenge

for sober drivers in broad daylight. For the tipsy reveler

finding his way home in the dead of night -- it was an accident

waiting to happen.

It was not uncommon to hear the phrase "he took the wrong

bridge." Many old-timers swore in the 1940s that the bridge

would fall down if it weren't for the submerged vehicles.

Making moonshine was a way of life for some in Clay County. It

was considered a cash crop. To some families it was a way of

putting food on the table and shoes on the kids. As long as the

brew was safe -- wouldn't turn you blind -- and nobody got drunk

and caused trouble, the practice was pretty much tolerated.

Of course, once the fighting, shooting or cutting started,

citizens got irate and come election time there would be

arrests. …

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