Every Day I Write the Book: A Year with Prohibition Detroit

Happy anniversary to Prohibition Detroit! It’s hard to believe I launched this site a year ago today. It’s been a long strange trip, and I know a whole heck of a lot more than I did a year ago about our history during Prohibition. I also know exponentially more about our old bars, thanks to my self-imposed Historic Bar Challenge. That one is almost a year old, too, and I’m still working my way towards finishing it: I still have a couple more (okay, maybe 4 or 5) bars to go.


That one is on the back burner for a hot minute, though, because I have to admit, Every Day I DO NOT Write the Book. Between a few other freelance writing and researching projects, I’ve fallen behind in my writing schedule for the big book project. I have plenty of research to show for my year, but it’s in the writing…there’s the rub. With today’s milestone, though, I’m committed to writing more and researching less. That way I can get this book out to all of you who’ve been so supportive.

A major factor in my decision to take on this task was the fact that, at the stage in my research that I was at last year, Google could no longer help me. I’d gotten to the point where “Detroit Prohibition” and “Detroit historic bars” searches simply yielded stuff I’d written, or presented, or already knew…or was complete hearsay. You encounter a lot of hearsay when you’re covering such a fun topic. I must admit I’m rather surprised at the pushback I’ve received when I’ve merely asked for hard proof on, say, the date of a building or the age of a license. But that’s good: people rarely get riled up about stuff they don’t care about, so I figure I’m on the right track if folks are passionate enough to engage in a (civilized) discourse.

two way me
Photo credit Waterloo Record December 2015

So, once Doctor Google failed me, and once I realized I’d probably spent more time looking into speakeasy history in Detroit than anyone else, I knew it was time to write down what I knew so that it would be easier for others to find. That is, in part, what this blog is about. It’s also what the book is about, and why I continue to host presentations and pop-up bartending events.

The one-year mark is as good a time as any to tally up what I’ve done with my time. So here, in no particular order and without much in the way of detailed record-keeping, is an amalgam of what PD has been up to this past year:

2-3: Hours spent daily conducting archival research

2-3: Bar visits per week for Very Important Field Research

10: Dollars spent per Very Important Research bar visit (what can I say, I’m a cheap date and I love Stroh’s)

19: Bar phone numbers stored in my phone (when I die, please explain this to my next of kin)

28: Spam comments per blog entry (no, really, I’m good on Viagra and I don’t need Diflucam)

2: Comments per blog entry from real human people related to each blog entry

20-25: Random strangers who have contacted me with exclusive historical information about speakeasies/Prohibition in Detroit

3: Times those random strangers turned out to have actual historical information (but those times were super exciting! In fact, look out for a post or two coming soon about how I’m investigating a really cool old bank/speakeasy in Southwest)

4: Times the random strangers proved to be really really weird and/or downright creepy (and therein lies another story)

3: Articles of clothing ruined by crawling/climbing through basements, crawlspaces and other spots to look at old bricks and strange holes in floors that might or might not help verify the existence of a speakeasy

We could continue breaking down the numbers, but you get the picture. It’s an odd life, really, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I still get a thrill anytime someone introduces me as a “Detroit Historian”, and I think I always will. Just today, I met someone at the Visitors Bureau, and they said, “Oh, you’re the bar history person!” I’ll take it. I’ve been paid in food, booze, t-shirts, and sometimes even in real American dollars. But really, the best payment for what I love to spend my time and talents on is this: the stories.* The stories about Detroit that no one else tells, and that need to be recorded before they’re lost.

Thanks for coming along on this journey with me. Thanks for your support and your encouragement, and thanks most of all for helping me share these stories.

See you at the bar,

I get to meet great folks like these, at Ye Olde Tap Room's annual Prohibition party
I get to meet great folks like these, at Ye Olde Tap Room’s annual Prohibition party


*okay, American dollars and the stories are about equal. Stories are tough to eat, and rather chewy.




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Mickey Lyons Written by:

Mickey is a Detroit-based author and researcher on Detroit Prohibition history. Her upcoming book, City on a Still: Detroit During Prohibition, is in the works. In the meantime, she spends her days trudging through old bars and buildings and sifting through old newspapers.

One Comment

  1. Debbi Deitch
    April 20

    I like your story about going to the next level in your project, because Google research had nothing more to offer you. I am looking forward to reading more of your adventures, and your book.

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