Friday, April 10, 2015

Letter J: The Choose Your Poison #AtoZChallenge



Jake liquor, Jake liquor, what in the world you tryin' to
do?
Everybody in the city messed up on account of drinkin'
you

I drank so much Jake, it settled all in my head
I've drank so much Jake, until it settled all in my head
I rushed for my lovin', my baby turned her back to me

That's the doggoned diseases, ever heard since I been
born
You have numbness in front of your body, you can't
carry any lovin' on

Aunt Jane she come a-runnin', tellin' everybody in the
neighborhood
Aunt Jane, she come runnin' and screamin', tellin'
everybody in the neighborhood
That man of mine got the limber trouble, and his lovin'
can't do me any good

The doctor told me to tell you somethin', for your own
cravin' on this Jake
If you don't quit drinkin' that poison Jake you're
drinkin', it's gon' leave you with the limber leg -ISHMON BRACEY - "Jake Liquor Blues"


     During Prohibition, alcoholic drinks of any sort were banned in the US. Ways people tried to get around the ban included marketing products as medicinal or "patent" medicines or adding adulterants to foil government testing of the product.
     One such medicine was Jamaica Ginger known by the slang name "Jake". Jamaica Ginger itself was not poisonous; however, it had an ethanol content of about 80%. The government mandated that more ginger be added, which made the drink extremely bitter and difficult to drink in any quantity. A pair of bootleggers, Harry Gross and Max Reisman, added a chemical plasticizer which allowed their "Jake" to both pass government tests and remain palatable.
     In March 1930, cases of a strange paralysis began to appear which stumped doctors. The most recognizable symptom was loss of muscle control in the legs and feet.  Many victims developed a distinctive gait, a sort of high-knee, heel-toe walk which became known as "Jake Leg" or the "Jake Walk". The numbers climbed rapidly: 600 men in Johnson City, TN, almost 700 in Topeka, Kansas.
     The medical community might have been puzzled, but the answer was there in the form of music. In March 1930 several blues musicians recorded songs featuring "Jake". Ishmon Bracey's "Jake Liquor Blues" demonstrates a clear knowledge that Jamaica Ginger was, in fact, responsible for the paralysis.
     Eventually the paralysis was traced to the adulterated batches of Jamaica Ginger, but by then an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 victims had been permanently affected.





 

20 comments:

  1. Wow! That is scary. Brew your own, folks.

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    1. Yup! Nothing like some homemade hard cider or moonshine. ;)

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  2. Fascinating. I didn't know that the condition was permanent!

    (Visiting as part of the A-Z Challenge -- do drop by: http://jolenemottern.com/)

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    1. Sadly, most nerve damage becomes permanent.

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  3. That's a great song. Very sad that so many lost motor function due to some weird additive and prohibition. I actually love ginger, so I would've just drank it straight :)

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    1. Prohibition brought more woes to this country than alcohol did - including giving organized crime syndicates a firm foothold in the major cities.

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  4. J here, stopping by from the #atozchallenge 2015!
    Great post. I'm following you on your listed social media sites.
    @JLenniDorner

    Needing a drink, even if it means never walking again. Yeah, prohibition was a great idea. LOL.

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    1. Thank you, followed you back!
      Addiction is a terrible thing, but Prohibition definitely was not the answer.

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  5. Oh that's terrible - these posts are so informative - never knew that

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    1. I didn't know it either! I'm learning a lot as I go through the alphabet.

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  6. Another interesting post. thanks, anne stenhouse, Novels Now.

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  7. Wow, interesting post! I'm discovering so many great things on this blog hop. :)

    Donna

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    1. I am too! It's quite an education.

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  8. Fascinating post. I wonder if that's where the song 'Jake the Peg' came from?

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    1. I had to look that one up - apparently not. The song was written in 1965 and was just a comedic song about a 3 legged man. Although I guess he could have been originally inspired by the term "Jake Leg".

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  9. My mom was always wary of homemade stuff (home canning and so forth).... I wonder if she knew about this. First I've heard of it!

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    1. So was my Mom. Improperly canned/preserved food can result in various food poisons like ptomaine and botulism.
      My grandfather has passed on, but he probably new about "Jake Leg". He often talked about the local bootleggers in our area, and the dangers of drinking "bathtub gin".

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