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August 7, 2005
Rockport sells first drink after 150 years on the dry
by Gulliver

Welcome to the 21st century, Rockport in Massachusetts.

The good people of the small New England town have finally fallen off the wagon after 150 years of abstinence.

You can build up a mighty thirst after a century and a half on the dry. What better way to quench it than with a nice cool beer!

Townsfolk can finally buy one locally after the lifting of a 150-year ban on the sale of alcohol.

One of Rockport's inns has starting selling alcohol, breaking with a tradition that goes back to the American Civil War.

Apart from a brief period immediately after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, it is the first time since the war that anyone has been able to legally guy a drink in the town.

First customer to avail of the honor at the Emerson Inn by the Sea was local antiques dealer Peter Beacham. He headed up the campaign to end Rockport's dry status.

He had no difficulty downing his two vodka martinis, despite all the years on the dry. Rockport had joined the 21st century, he declared. "We are a tourist community. There was a need to change and I thought it was the right thing to do," he told the news media.

Local legend has it that the ban dated from an incident in 1856. Local lady Hannah Jumper is said to have led a group of 200 axe-wielding wives, mothers and daughters on a rampage around the town to smash up every bottle and keg of spirits they could find.

The women's rebellion against the "demon rum" was prompted by their menfolk's heavy drinking in the fishing community. For three months of the year the men weren't able to fish due to weather they idled away their time consuming enormous amounts of liquor.

A sustained campaign to end the ban got under way recently, amid claims it was damaging the tourist trade. Following a vote by the townsfolk, local authorities decided to grant liquor licenses to restaurants and inns. But the law still bans bars and off-licences.

Cheers to the good people of Rockport. Have a drink on us. But don't overdo it you guys… remember Hannah, there could be another axe-woman lying in wait for you at home.

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