prohibition and death

vancouver and forgetting

alcohol was prohibited in Vancouver during the 1918 pandemic. a lot of people died during prohibition, at the end of the war, in that pandemic


WAVE AFTER WAVE (Epidemic and Public Health : Influenza in Vancouver, 1918-1919 by Margaret W. Andrews)


health services were already short staffed because many doctors and nurses had gone overseas, to serve in the war.

they couldn’t figure out how people were getting sick − it wasn’t the poor, the old, the weak − they couldn’t figure out how those who became infected were infected. they couldn’t make connections

the majority of deaths were people between 20-39.

it was prohibition and if you wanted to drink, this was the legal route. you needed a prescription. it was rationed, and mild.

"there were long queues for prescription spirits"

it was pandemic safe supply.

otherwise you had no idea what you were drinking but people went to underground bars anyway. i know this; i was in the basement of old gachet on cordova, where there’s a tunnel to the old bar − people could enter it from down the block & around the corner. to not use alone.

to examine documents now, to be historical, is to wonder at how infrequently the pandemic is mentioned. once it was here.

"there was popular reluctance to admit that normal life was being disrupted"

it was understood very differently in in different places. and death rates tell only only a part of the tale. i wonder what it was by neighbourhood

table from Margaret W. Andrews, Epidemic and Public Health, BC Studies 1977

if you can’t get social or physical distance, there’s always the historical option. step back, and look at us.

26.9 in 2020 for the whole province
but overdoses


in the aftertimes people tried to forget it happened as quickly as possible and focused on recovering from the war and even called it Great and repealed prohibition and once again believed that everything was fine and nothing would ever change and the pandemic only lasted three years

and almost 800 people had died in the city, which had a population of 100 000

were they supposed to pretend that never happened? to forget that they ran out of flowers for funerals? they sure tried.

will we? did our deaths or lives ever happen?