UNL and the Dry Spell: Student Attitudes Toward Prohibition, 1931-1932

Project Editor:Jeffrey Miller, History 470: Digital History, Spring 2008

Table of Contents

The Wimberly Affair
The Beer Apartment Raid
Source Page

The Beer Apartment Raid

One of the best athletes the University of Nebraska-Lincoln had ever seen, Steve Hokuf was poised for big things. The 1930-1931 school year had been a good one for him so far. He participated in football, basketball and track, plus he was President of the junior class during the fall semester (The Cornhusker, 1930). On Saturday, March 21, 1931, the apartment that Hokuf rented with two friends was raided by Lincoln Police. The Omaha Bee-News reported that the police found "two gallons of alcohol, 115 bottles of beer, 2 crocks (8 and 10 gallons), a length of hose and 70 empty bottles," as well as "a Gladstone bag, fitted to carry bottles silently." The five UNL students in the apartment at the time of the raid were arrested, but Hokuf was not among them. In fact, according to this article, he was not even in Lincoln. Regardless, four days later Hokuf would be suspended from UNL and declared ineligible for athletics the next school year.

According to a Lincoln Star article, the police had received a disturbance call for the location on Friday, the 20th of March and had suspected that there might be illegal activity going on there. Detective Frank Weygint organized a raiding party for the following night. The five students arrested in the raid were Jack Calkins, Fred Wickman, Max Von Bargen, George Cook and Warren Crawford. When it was discovered that Steve Hokuf co-rented the apartment (which was just across the street from the UNL campus) with the latter two students, he was asked to come in for questioning. Hokuf voluntarily went to Dean of Men T.J. Thompson's office on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the situation. On Wednesday Dean Thompson announced the suspension of six UNL students. Hokuf was punished along with the other five young men.

The statement from Dean Thompson published in the Bee-News did not mention the names of any of the students suspended, however, other papers had already reported the names of those in question. Thompson said that he was certain the young men were not manufacturing alcohol with intent to sell it. He stated that "the young men responsible for the rental of the apartment and those associated with the incident are being suspended" for the rest of the semester, but would be allowed to attend UNL again in the fall if they wished. The suspension made Hokuf ineligible for football in the fall. Crawford, who claimed possession of the liquor, and Wickman, who had tried to flee the scene, were each fined $100 by Justice of the Peace E. G. Maggi.

The suspension of Hokuf was cause for public outcry. F.J. Kobes, mayor of Hokuf's hometown of Crete, began circulating petitions for Hokuf's reinstatement. Kobes claimed that other students who were proven guilty of alcohol violations had been readmitted and therefore a circumstantially guilty student like Hokuf should be readmitted as well. An article in the Crete News called Hokuf's suspension "sacrificial," stating that he was only targeted because he was a prominent, popular athlete. Mayor Kobes and some concerned citizens of Crete met with Dean Thompson on April 2, 1931 and appeared to be satisfied with what Thompson had to say regarding the suspension. Protest was also heard in a Board of Regents meeting, where the regents voted against Hokuf's reinstatement, deeming the suspension decision final.

As with the Wimberly Affair, there is reason to believe that Steve Hokuf (and even Cook, Calkins and Von Bargen, who all claimed to be visiting the apartment) were simply victims of circumstance and perhaps of a University that was too eager to set examples in order to maintain campus integrity. Also like the Wimberly Affair, the negative press surrounding the "beer apartment" case seemed to enrage UNL students more than the raid itself. Hokuf did miss the 1931-1932 football season, but he was eligible the next season and went on to play professionally for three years with the Boston Redskins. Hokuf was named to the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1980.