A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 04, 2007
“The only river wet on one side and dry on the other” (Rio Grande during Prohibition)

During the Prohibition era (1920-1933), the Rio Grande was said to be the only river in the world that’s “wet” on one side and “dry” on the other. A pointed 1921 newspaper article (below) corrects this statement with: “It is dry on neither side, nor in the middle.”


Wikipedia: Prohibition in the United States
Prohibition in the United States (1920–1933) was the era during which the United States Constitution outlawed the manufacture, transport, and sale of alcoholic beverages. The term also refers to legal prohibitions against alcohol imposed by its various states, and the surrounding social-political movements advocating the passage of prohibition. Selling, manufacturing, or transporting (including importing and exporting) alcohol for beverage purposes was prohibited by the Eighteenth Amendment. Though drinking and possession of alcohol were not prohibited by the Constitution, those acts were limited by the federal Volstead Act, which became law during the prohibition era. 

This Dog’ll Really Hunt:
An Entertaining and Informative Texas Dictionary
by Wallace O. Chariton
Plano, TX: Republic of Texas Press
1999
Pg. 234:
Rio Grande: Texans drop the “e” for simply Rio Grand. Translated it means “big river.” (...) During prohibition, the Rio Grande was said to be the only river in the world that was wet on one side and dry on the other. 

9 October 1921, Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram, section 2, pg. 2:
A familiar saying in this section is that the Rio Grande is the only river in America that is dry on one side and wet on the other. This is not true. It is dry on neither side, nor in the middle.

13 September 1925, Davenport (Iowa) Democrat and Leader, pg. 28, col. 5:
He says the Rio Grande is a peculiar river, inasmuch as it is wet on one side, and dry on the other.

9 December 1925, Port Arthur (TX) , pg. 2, cols. 3-4:
“El Paso, where the Rio Grande is wet on one side only.”

20 February 1926, Dallas Morning News, part 1, pg. 2:
Beginning, he said the Rio Grande was the only river in the world that was dry on one side and wet on the other, and, knowing the other side to be wet, it was hard for the delegates to remain long on this side.

10 April 1931, Moberly (MO) Monitor-Index, pg. 3, col. 1:
She continued her description of her trip on into the valley of the Rio Grande, “the only river known to be wet on one side and dry on the other.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Tuesday, September 04, 2007 • Permalink