File photo/The Herald-Dispatch This photo of the interior of the state liquor store at 1108 3rd Ave. was taken in 1975, after the state began converting its liquor stores to supermarket style self-service operations.

Editor's note: This is the 214th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.

HUNTINGTON - For years, buying a bottle of booze in Huntington was a bit like going to your bank and dealing with a teller.

After nationwide Prohibition was repealed, the sale of bottled booze was legalized. But in 1935 the West Virginia Legislature established a network of state-run stores as the only places where bottled booze could be sold. No privately run liquor stores were allowed.

Making a purchase in one of the state-run liquor stores was a carefully choreographed experience.

When you entered the store, there was nary a bottle of booze anywhere in sight. It was all tucked away in the back of the store.

You had to join a line and wait your turn at a small window where a seated clerk would take your order. A large poster on the wall of the store listed the various brands of liquor sold.

If, when you reached the front of the line, you asked the clerk if the store had Old Tennis Shoe or some other brand, he likely would point to the posted list and tell you to look it up yourself.

You gave the clerk your order and paid him. He filled out a slip of paper and handed it to a man who went to the shelves in back and fetched your purchase.

When the man returned, he gave it to the seated clerk who stuck it in a brown paper bag and handed it to you.

Coveted jobs in the state-run liquor stores often went to individuals who voted "the right way" come election time.

In 1970, West Virginia took a big step forward when, following the lead of other states, it began converting its state-run liquor stores to supermarket style self-service operations.

And in 1990, the state took an even bigger step when, again following the example of other states, it exited the retail liquor business, closing its state-run stores and selling licenses to private retailers. (Meanwhile, the state still clings to the wholesale end of the booze business.)


Do you enjoy the "Lost Huntington" series?

"Lost Huntington: Volume 1" is a hardcover, full-color book of some of the city's lost landmarks. The book is likely to be of interest to anyone who enjoys history and loves Huntington.

Books are $29.95 plus tax, shipping and handling. To order, visit media.herald-dispatch.com/ecom/ or call 304-526-2720.


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