Traveling to the past

GRPM exhibit features 1920s relics

By Anush Yepremyan | 10/14/15 11:39pm


How many of you ever wished to go back in time and have just a taste of a historical period? According to Albert Einstein, to travel into the future, we must approach the speed of light. So, in order to travel into the past, we must surpass the speed of light. Easy as a pie, right? Luckily, I know a shortcut.

My sister and I traveled into the “Roaring 20s” last week. We attended the “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. It was such a great experience. We felt as if we were transferred into that period. The whole layout, sculptures and atmosphere played their roles perfectly. I would strongly suggest that everyone attend it if you have a chance.

What was a little shocking for me was the fact that, on average, Americans over the age of 15 were guzzling seven gallons of pure alcohol each year. This was the equivalent of 90 bottles of 80-proof liquor – or about four shots every day, which remains the highest measured volume of consumption in the U.S.'s history. Crazy! Imagine how alcohol business was booming back then. And this is just one of many fascinating facts about Prohibition. Another surprising fact was that more women drank—and drank with men, keeping right up with them, which was probably one of the unintended consequences of prohibition.

We even had a chance to participate in a revolt against saloon owners by joining the members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and carrying one of the banners that said, “Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.” If I were a man that time, I would take their words seriously. They did look like they really meant it. Just so you know, Carrie A. Nation- one of the leaders of the W.C.T.U.- took a huge axe, which I will never be able to pick up (she was a woman of extraordinary strength), entered the salon and started breaking all the bottles of alcohol.

A little bit further, there was this wide wooden door with a small window in the upper center. We knocked, and we saw eyes of a man who was asking for a secret password. I thought it was neat. Somehow we managed to sneak in. There were glorious prototypes of men’s and ladies’ clothes and accessories of that time. I wished I could try them on. On the other side of the room there was a bar, tables with tips for how people behaved and ordered food, musicians and of course, the dance floor. But it was not a regular dance floor. It had the steps drawn for you to follow so that you could imitate the dance of the ‘20s.

We also had a chance to take a picture with gangsters of the Depression and prohibition era such as Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, and Lucky Luciano. "American Spirits" is a must-see. The GRPM did a great job transferring us to the “Roaring 20s" - I only wish it was for real!

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