My turn: Liquor sales issue never put to rest

Portales heads to the polls today for another round in its century-old debate over firewater.

Today’s chapter is focused on Sunday alcohol sales in restaurants. The story began in 1898, when Portales consisted of one house, one general store … and two saloons.

Railroad workers and cowboys frequented the saloons in those days, searching for “relaxation and excitement,” according to “Roosevelt County History and Heritage.”

But when farmers and their families began to move in, and especially when Roosevelt County was formed in 1903, the anti-liquor sentiment began to grow, “History and Heritage” reported.

Candidates representing the Home Protection Ticket, which opposed the sale of liquor, won the first election after Portales was incorporated in 1909. One of the first ordinances adopted by those city leaders prohibited alcohol sales, the history book tells us.

“A new day has come to Portales,” Rev. E.P. Alldredge proclaimed. “The town has waked up.”

But the issue never really slept.

More than once, Portales law officers invited residents to watch them pour out thousands of gallons of demon rum they’d confiscated.

The law just couldn’t quench some eastern New Mexico thirsts. One example of evidence was presented on Oct. 2, 1931.

That’s when federal and county officials found the largest distilling plant ever operating in New Mexico.

The bootleggers scampered off into the sandhills southeast of Melrose as authorities moved in to find 1,250 gallons of whiskey cooking, the Clovis Evening News-Journal reported.

Officials estimated the still had been operating about six weeks.