In 1925, $0.25 Got You a View of a Blind Pig


I’d call that a bargain, especially if you have a certain curiosity about domesticated animals with sight impairment. In today’s dollars, that quarter would be $3.39. Still cheap, cheap, cheap to see a sightless hog.

But wait there’s more . . .

Back in 1925, when alcohol was prohibited in the USA, you could pay your money, see the pig, AND have gotten stupid drunk at the same time. But get this . . . you would have paid nothing for your intoxication. Some called these establishments “speakeasies;” some liked the confusing “blind tiger.” Me? I am a fan of “blind pig,” because we humans are more similar to pigs than most of us non-geneticists know.

pig eye

We humans and pigs are mammals with hairless skin, a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, light-colored eyes, protruding noses, and heavy eyelashes.  (Be honest: when you first saw this picture, you wondered what substance was around this “person’s” eye. I did.)

Back on track . . .

If you had a quarter, you gained entry into a “show” where the show’s sponsor could make the claim that he/she wasn’t charging you for alcohol but was, instead, displaying a curiosity and providing “complimentary” beverages. (I went to one of these in Tallinn, Estonia with some Peace Corps friends. It cost 50 kroons. There was no blind pig; there were, however, several hairless, heavily-eyelashed women with very little subcutaneous fat wearing only g-strings. We were provided plenty of cheap vodka diluted by something akin to Tang. That evening, no doubt, ranked in the “toughest job you’ll ever love” column.)

Again, I got off track. (My apologies. But I predict you’ll see how this happened.)

I suggested to a reader of this blog that she provide me an idea for a post. Here’s what I got:

I know you don’t drink anymore, but what is it that you liked about gin?

So I began thinking about how to answer this question and stumbled on this quote:

In desperate cases, (an establishiment) has to betake itself to the exhibition of Greenland pigs and other curious animals, charging 25 cents for a sight of the pig and throwing in a gin cocktail gratuitously.

(I would have been in nirvana had I lived in 1925. A quarter for a gin cocktail? Add to that the chance to be around a smart, gentle animal? I would have looked great in my flapper dress, tipping back gin cocktail after gin cocktail. I bet I would have ended up scratching that blind pig between the ears.)

For those of you who have consistently read this blog and/or any of my writing, you have found that the character “gin” makes a fairly regular appearance. “Gin” is a quiet friend to one particular character whose name is Lara Jenson. She regards her pal, “gin,” this way:

The gin had the exact effect she was looking for: a clean numbing of her nerve endings, edges less pronounced and sharp.

I think that Lara’s summation of how the gin made her feel is in concert with what I liked about the distilled beverage. The cold, prickly sensation —  accompanied by the simple, clean, tangy taste of naked gin on ice  — had a quick and effective result for me: a quieting of the noise of life followed by a much needed smoothing of the frayed ends.

The immediate effect was consistent and easy to achieve.

The long-term consequences were also consistent, and upon reflection, not doing anything, which could be seen objectively as “positive,” for me. (“Me” = my heath, my marriage, my parenting, my thought process, my concentration, my yoga practice, my life.)

By the end of my first novel, appropriately titled “Ginned Up,” Lara Jenson comes to a tipping point:

Lara decided that the gin had to go, permanently. Since gin was the only alcohol she really enjoyed the taste of, she was now a teetotaler. While she heard that there were some decent non-alcoholic beers, she laughed to herself at the notion of her former favorite stripped of its ethanol.

Lara’s fictional shunning of her fictional gin predated my actual abstention from the real stuff.

After I saw that Lara could survive without it, I gave it a try. (How’s that for life imitating art?)

“One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters. But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk.” — Charles Baudelaire

I think there is still a place in my life for intoxication — just not from ethanol.

3 thoughts on “In 1925, $0.25 Got You a View of a Blind Pig

      1. The same sorts of ploys were used on “my generation” but not here in Massachusetts where on 12.11.1984 a specific regulation went into effect banning the practice of changing the price of alcohol at any time during the calendar week.


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