Jan Siegel by Jan Siegel

At the moment, we are going through some very difficult times. But 100 years ago, we were going through even more changes that affect our lives today.

One, we were coming out of a worldwide pandemic known as the Spanish Flu. With no antibiotics, the flu was hard to contain and took the lives of millions of people around the world.

Two, there was the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors. Congress gave the states seven years to pass the amendment, but three-quarters of the states passed it in just 11 months on January 6, 1919. California passed the amendment on January 13, 1919. It was to go into effect one year later. In October 1919, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, which gave guidelines for the Federal enforcement of the amendment. Prohibition became law in January 1920. Liquor stores closed, but drugstores and pharmacies replaced them. Medical alcohol was the buzzword of the day. Sound familiar?  Medical alcohol could be refilled every 10 days. By the end of Prohibition, more than 6 million medical alcohol prescriptions had been filled. 

Jewish Sabbath and Catholic Communion services were exempt from the Prohibition law.  Sacramental wineries increased by millions of gallons. They saved the wine industry in California. In one year, Congregation Talmud Torah in Los Angeles went from 187 families to 1,000 families. 

Three, the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote, even though the amendment did not mention gender. The amendment was first proposed by California U.S. Senator Aaron Augustus Sargent in 1878. Sargent died in 1887, but his bill was introduced every year for 41 years before it was enacted in May 1919. The wording of the bill never changed. It read: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The bill was ratified by the State of California on November 1, 1919. It became law on August 18, 1920, when a young representative in the House of Representatives in Tennessee changed his vote after getting a letter from his mother to support the amendment, thus making Tennessee the 36th state to pass the amendment. Yes, it passed by one vote!

Four, closer to home, it was in 1919 that the Capistrano Union High School District was founded. According to Pam Gibson in Two Hundred Years in San Juan Capistrano, “the first trustees were C.E. Crumrine, J.S. Landell, Guy Williams, C. Russell Cook and Mae Forster.  Sixteen students were housed in a temporary building that opened September 13, 1920 with John S. Malcom, principal, and one teacher. The curriculum included English, Latin I, mathematics, Spanish, history and athletics.” Area students no longer had to travel to Santa Ana for high school.

Five, a new hotel came to San Juan Capistrano in 1920. The California Hotel was completed by Fred A. Stoffel across from the Mission. It was built south of the San Juan Inn, a restaurant that the Stoffels also owned. Today, the site where the restaurant was located is Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, which opened on September 1, 2020. 

Spend a “Moment in Time” and appreciate the history that has gone before, as well as the possibilities for the future.      

Jan Siegel was a 33-year resident of San Juan Capistrano and now resides in the neighboring town of Rancho Mission Viejo. She served on the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission for 13 years, has been a volunteer guide for the San Juan Capistrano Friends of the Library’s architectural walking tour for 26 years and is currently the museum curator for the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. She was named Woman of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005, Volunteer of the Year in 2011 and was inducted into the city’s Wall of Recognition in 2007.

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