Foxhome booze runs were classic [UPDATED]Published 9:53am Monday, October 29, 2012 Updated 11:55am Monday, October 29, 2012
Fergus Falls was known as a dry town between 1913 and 1959. If you wanted to purchase a bottle of whiskey or a bottle of another alcoholic beverage, you needed to drive out of town.
Most residents opted for a 12-mile journey to Foxhome. And what a thriving business did those liquor store owners enjoy for many years.
“Some nights it was a car caravan along Highway 210 from Fergus to Foxhome, with a long string of car lights” said Fergus Falls retiree Mike Lucking.
Lucking recalls the years following World War II, from the mid 1940s to the late 1950s, when people would journey to Foxhome, pick up their supplies of liquor, and stop on the way home for supper at the Skyline Café near the Fergus Falls Municipal Airport.
“Many people happily made the 24-mile round trip in those days,” said Lucking.
Even though hard liquor sales were voted out by Fergus Falls residents in 1913, beer sales continued at local taverns and also in places such as the town of Elizabeth.
The Elks Club in Fergus Falls and other private clubs, during the dry years of the 1950s, had setups for mixes such as 7 Up and water for people who brought along their own liquor bottles. The same held true at other establishments such as the VFW and American Legion.
The only way to purchase a bottle of whiskey in Fergus Falls, from 1913 to 1959, was if you could obtain a prescription due to a severe cold, excruciating pain from a severe headache or other affliction. Then, whiskey could be obtained from a local pharmacy.
Fergus Falls prided itself as a dry town, until public pressure forced a city-wide vote in 1959. In March of that year, approving a municipal liquor store passed by just 74 votes.
With 75 percent of the city’s 6,304 registered voters turning out, the liquor store vote was 2,405 in favor and 2,331 against the proposal.
“With establishment of a liquor store, Fergus Falls had liquor available legally for the first time in 46 years,” said Vicky Anderson of the Otter Tail County Historical Society who graciously provided research for this column
On April 7, 1959, the liquor store ordinance was given its first reading at the city council meeting. In June 1959 Earl Askerooth was hired to manage the new Fergus Falls Municipal Liquor Store. He previously managed the liquor store in Battle Lake for 10 years.
The Fergus Falls City Council rented a building on Vine Street and Stanton Avenue on the west side of downtown. The council approved a lease on Dr. H. J. Larson’s building . The rent was $125 a month. Shelving and some interior remodeling was necessary before the store opened.
On June 29, 1959, a total of $48,000 worth of liquor arrived in Fergus Falls and was unloaded. This was in preparation for the opening of the municipal liquor store the following month.
The Fergus Falls Municipal Liquor Store opened July 18, 1959. The Daily Journal reported that business “was good but not rushing this morning.” There were 125 sales between 9 and 11:30 a. m.
The following month the city of Fergus Falls negotiated for the purchase of the creamery building on Court Street, located at what’s now a parking lot behind the Viking Café. The Fergus Dairy Board accepted the city’s offer of $50,000. City Attorney Philip R. Monson met with Chester Rosengren, the dairy’s attorney, to work out details of a contract. The Fergus Falls Municipal Liquor store opened in new quarters in November 1960.
Anderson, while helping me with research at the county museum, discovered that saloons were voted in and out of Fergus Falls a number of times before the county option law was passed in 1915. Every ward in the city voted dry in June 1915.
“A banquet and meeting at the Grand Hotel in December 1915 commemorated the closing of saloons in Otter Tail County,” said Anderson.
Fergus Falls becoming dry led to the famous booze runs to and from Foxhome. Many a story has been told over the years about people in a town of 12,000 traveling west to a town of 250, during the 1950s, to fulfill their desire to purchase whiskey and other bottles of alcoholic beverages.