San Diego Hysterical Society



The Music Store Massacre

by Aimee Semple Macpherson


The eighteenth amendment elevated Prohibition to the status of a Constitutional imperative. The public's taste for alcohol however made enforcement difficult at best.

Music Store Violence
- The Day After the Night Before -

One of the most popular speakeasies in San Diego was the Everything In Music storefront on east Broadway. Bootleggers from across the Rio Grande kept this drinking establishment well stocked through much of the 20's. "The Music Store" as it was known, was so popular that rival gangs had a de facto agreement to consider the spot neutral territory. Some evenings, as many as 5 different gangs were represented at the bar.

In 1928 Walter Elias ("Walt") Disney produced the first animated cartoon with sound, Steamboat Willie. The owner of the Music Store obtained a copy of the film and showed it to the usual Saturday evening crowd. His mistake was in not realizing that one gang there, known as the Big Black Cats, and another known as Captain Mouse, were rivals for the steamboat rackets on the harbor.

The two gangs took the conflict on the screen into the street outside. Violence erupted, with bricks, boards and auto parts being hurled about. Police were able to restore order, but only after the Music Store and 13 surrounding stores were destroyed. The FBI was later on hand for the opening of Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail.


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