Deep within the archives of the Watkins Community Museum of History is a poster with a classical female figure standing on a pedestal surrounded by somber-looking people. It reads, “Observance and enforcement not repeal.”
The piece of prohibition propaganda points to the state’s drier days. On Jan. 20, the poster and others like it will be on display in the most unlikely of places: The Eldridge’s Big 6 Room.
The event, dubbed Speakeasy Night, is a fundraiser for the Watkins Museum and will feature music from the Roaring ’20s, a cash bar and signature 1920s drink. Dressing as flappers is encouraged.
“Be prepared to hear a Charleston or two,” museum director Steve Nowak said.
Following Ken Burns’ PBS documentary “Prohibition” and the HBO hit drama “Boardwalk Empire,” which focuses on prohibition in Atlantic City, there has been a renewal of interest in that time period.
“It was sort of a period of rapid change and big upheaval. And that resonates with people now,” Nowak said. “It adds glamour to that era, whether or not it was glamorous living through it.”
The museum has uncovered a number of posters from the era that were in favor of prohibition, a popular sentiment in Kansas.
The artifacts haven’t been viewed for quite some time, Nowak said. They will be part of the exhibit on display during Speakeasy Night.
Prohibition has a long history in Kansas. In 1881, the state banned the manufacturing and sale of alcohol. And in the late 1890s and early 1900s, temperance crusader Carrie Nation began famously wielding a hatchet to smash to pieces establishments that served alcohol in Kansas. In 1948, Kansas repealed the statewide prohibition on alcohol, 15 years after the federal ban was lifted.
While the event will be held in a hotel that was rebuilt in the 1920s, Patti McCormick, who is the director of media, special events, community and public relations with the hotel, said she has never heard of the hotel operating as a speakeasy.
The event will be held on Jan. 20 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at The Eldridge, 701 Mass. Tickets, which cost $10, can be ordered by calling 749-1005. They can also be purchased at the door for $12.