In the early days of August 1888, a small advertisement showed up in the Contra Costa Gazette.
The Contra Costa County Agricultural and Industrial Association announced it would hold an auction on Aug. 18 at the fairgrounds in Concord. The purpose would be to accept bids for the concessions at the upcoming county fair.
These included a first-class restaurant, a cold-lunch counter with hot tea and coffee, a confectionery and fruit stand, an ice cream and lemonade stand, a first-class saloon, pool games, flying horses (a carousel), a shooting gallery and a photograph gallery.
The advertisement aroused the ire of one supporter of the temperance movement. He wrote a letter to the editor and signed it simply "Citizen."
While the Gazette was a very strong promoter of the association running the fair, it printed Citizen's remarks in full.
The writer criticized the association's board and accused it of allowing a saloon because it would help pay for the fair.
The fair had lost money previously when it had no saloon.
The board's thinking went along these lines, according to Citizen: "Yes, gentlemen of the bar, give us a bid. We want to make some money, and we will give you a chance to make some too. There will be lots of people at the Fair, old friends will meet each other, and how natural it will be for them to say, 'Come, let us take a drink.' And if they ever drank at all they will do it then and there. Many a man, who perhaps has not tasted anything strong for a year, will take a drink; if he don't drink whiskey he will take a soda or a cigar. No doubt but the bar will be well-patronized so, you see, there is money in it."
Citizen added that the board's attitude must be if saloon patrons got drunk it was their own business and "never mind those temperance people; they may growl a little, but they'll come around all the same. They are in the minority, anyhow."
The writer contended, "The saloon is a power. It controls both political parties and puts up their nominees. ... You want a saloon to help pay expenses; you want to please the tippling class, and if there is any other reason it must be to favor the liquor interests."
The letter didn't stop the fair officials from selling the rights to the liquor concession to the partnership of Rodgers & Burpee.
"Messrs. Rodgers & Burpee have the privilege for the saloon, and have arranged everything in connection with this privilege in a business-like shape," reported the Gazette on September 26.
Nobody seemed to want to run the restaurant, so the fair officials took the job themselves, but they were able to get C. Navis of Concord to run the ice cream stand.
When the fair was over, the Gazette pronounced the event an astounding success where everyone attending had a good time -- especially the children, who made the flying horses of the carousel the most popular attraction.
Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at email@example.com.