As a kid, I remember somebody saying how there were twice as many taverns than churches in Whiting. Now there were always quite a number of churches, so that meant there were a ton of taverns.
The construction of Standard Oil in 1889 brought into the community a huge number of men without wives. When you consider there was no television, radio, and virtually no transportation to take you any distance, the neighborhood taverns provided social networking and a place to relax after your 10-hour stint at the refinery.
In the wilds of the Oklahoma district were always a number of saloons, but throughout the burgeoning city itself, many more came into existence. The old Whiting Sun newspaper is full of stories about who was opening a new saloon and ads for taverns.
Because of the abundance of saloons, proud saloon keepers added specials that would appeal to the public.
The Original Liverpool House in 1894, located at the corner of Fischrupp and New York avenues, offered a fine line of "foreign and domestic wines and liquors," but proprietor John W. Shone also stated in his ad: "I am erecting a first-class bowling alley at my place of business and will soon be in readiness for those who love the tumble of the pins."
Louis Gordon offered to make free deliveries to any part of the city "on Saturday night, ice cold." His establishment on 119th Street was a place any patron could partake of "free food all day and evening" to go with his libations.
Like the later mom and pop corner stores, most taverns were mom and pop establishments. Families could go there for supper and taverns provided a special side door entrance for women. Often there was entertainment, such as "Judge" Tony Carson, "an experienced trickster, violinist and a pianist of some merit" who went from saloon to saloon to perform in 1903.
Naturally, there were citizens against the demon rum. A Rev. Burns from the University of Notre Dame gave a temperance lecture at Goebel's Opera House in 1896 to Whiting's Father Matthews Total Abstinence Society.
Citizens remonstrated against the saloon that opened across the street from the schoolhouse and in the horrific winter of 1910, there were rumors that instead of shutting down the schools to conserve the coal supply, the anti-saloon leagues of Indiana wanted all saloons closed and their coal diverted to keep the schools open.
Headlines read "Saloons are Doomed" as an opinion poll showed that the majority of Indiana voters were in favor of the destruction of the liquor business back in 1909.
The newspaper wrote that "those acquainted with actual sentiment in Whiting would not be surprised to see it go dry. Foreign voters are thrifty and sensible enough to understand that if saloons went out, payments on their little homes could be made more easily."
I picture this radical idea being discussed over a frosty mug or two in many a Whiting establishment as "Judge Carson" fiddled in the background. Cheers!