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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Anne Stapp

Noisy New Year's Eve 1922

There’s something about the coming of a new year that inspires us to symbolically shed the ups and downs of the past twelve months and resolve to better ourselves in the hope that the next twelve will bring the realization of our dreams. On New Year’s Eve 2022, many of us will be out on the town, dancing and laughing, raising a glass of champagne as the clock ticks over into 2023.

One hundred years ago people felt the same, except that on December 31, 1922, the nation prepared to celebrate the second New Year’s Eve under the constraints of Prohibition. Although the law didn’t prohibit the private consumption of alcohol, there would be no public sales of champagne with which to toast the rebirth of Father Time. There would be no public dancing in Los Angeles, either. Since December 31 fell on a Sunday that year, Police Chief Oaks announced that the city’s Sunday dance hall closing ordinance would be strictly enforced.

However, Californians were clearly ready to revel without letting a dry law dampen their fun: There was no ban on noise.

In San Francisco, the city was subjected to the noisiest New Year welcome it had endured in many years, with fireworks, bass drums, and horns of all sizes. After novelty stores sold out of rattlers and exploding balloons, people resorted to cowbells and just plain tin cans. All the downtown restaurants and beach cafes were filled to capacity, where patrons dined and danced and sang. At midnight, automobile horns blared the length of San Francisco’s Market Street.

In Los Angeles, several hundred thousand revelers thronged the downtown streets, especially Broadway, where motorists staged an impromptu parade of two and three cars abreast—requiring hours to pass a given point—adding the squawking of their horns and their engines’ backfires to the din of horn-blowing, laughing pedestrians in paper hats. Dance halls might have been dark, but cafes, cabarets, hotels and clubs were crowded there, too.

All in all, both cities reported that New Year’s Eve 1922 was the noisiest Year’s Eve ever recorded.

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