for most people today it is difficult to imagine the aura of debauchery and degradation which for a century Americans associated with the old-time saloon. Even to suggest this association is to offer unseemly irreverance to a mystique now rooted deeply in national legend. And to question the legend is to challenge the veracity of honorable men who yet warm themselves with these soft and fleeting images: the free flow of fellowship, the easily creative euphoria, the refreshing restoration of confidence in human dignity which true individuals found at an altar shaped in dark mahogany, gleaming crystal, and polished brass.
Old men sometimes remember that in the saloon they were granted refuge from the tedium and humiliation which inevitably overtake the human spirit, or that in the very character of the saloon they were sheltered from the afflictions of loneliness, disorder, and ancient sorrows. Even as the images were fading, the young Jack London would write of the finely masculine satisfactions he had found in a favorite saloon "where men come together to exchange ideas, to laugh and boast and dare, to relax, to forget the dull toil of tiresome nights and days." In the images of legend, the saloon was a dignified and decent place to drink, and drinking was perfectly consistent with the dignified and decent comportment of honorable men.
Yet Jack London, like many other robust drinkers of heroic capacities, poured himself still another glass while musing over his dedicated support of Prohibition. He did not find this support either awkward or dishonest. In his book John Barleycorn