Monday, September 30, 2013

Bootlegging Buffoonery

1931 Packard 833 photographed in Montreal, Que...
1931 Packard 833: it'd be a shame to
shoot up this beauty.
Information for this article was found in: Mooney, Elizabeth C. "War on Rum Road." Adirondack Life. November 1980.

Buffoonery in Rumrunning? Yes, some of the things people did in the name of booze was quite funny. And there were no shortages of risk takers seeing as $240 in Canadian hootch netted the running $700 in NYC. A quite handsome Canadian exchange!

Getting to Canada, in those days, was quite easy...head to a neighbor's farm and drive over the back pasture. Voila. Load up your Packard and head on down to the Big Apple.

But what if a revenuer or Malone's Black Horse caught on to you?

  1. through the lever on the dashboard and lay down a smoke-screen. OR
  2. press the air compressor throttle and throw up dust. OR
  3. lay down an oil slick. OR
  4. aim for the prohi (fed) OR
if all else failed, go low tech--toss out the nails and broken glass you stored on the passenger seat. That would flatten any tire.

Fortunately for the bootleggers--the troopers didn't have cars in the early years. Your nemesis road a horse and Troop B of the NY State Police was known as the Black Horse Troop. They patrolled the border in pairs. The Captain of these troopers only had a general idea where their officers were. The bootleggers, via their underground network, knew to a man, where they hid.

Synonyms for the Black Horse Troop:
  • dressed up Boy Scouts
  • Map showing Rouses Point, New York
    Map showing Rouses Point, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • gun-toting tin soldiers
What happened when a roadblock netted a bad guy?

The car was put up for auction, and guess who usually bought it? At least the troopers got some revenue.
How'd the revenuers get rid of the booze?
  • In Rouses Point they tried flushing it down the toilet. But like today, flushing stuff not supposed to go in the sewer had dire consequences. The sewer line burst. It's said the railroad tracks in Rouses Point ran with rum.
  • "Whiskey Gully" (my name) on Webster St.
  • In Malone, uncorroborated reports say Canadian whiskey was dumped on Webster St. About a mile up from Route 11 a gully tuns down toward what is now Wilcox St. and the Rec Park. Supposedly lots of booze got jettisoned there. (I think it's time for a walk to look for some wayward bottles. Should be appropriately aged by now).
And I'll close with a quiz:
Who was the beer baron associated with Saranac Lake?
Who was the beer baron known in Malone?

The answers next week.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Moonshine Madness: The Source of Prohibition Alcohol

Prescription form for medicinal liquor
Prescription form for medicinal liquor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Prohibition did not stop drinking--in many ways it glamorized it. For example, people began flavoring the whiskey with fruit drinks and sodas, making cocktails. o to any bar today and look at the wonderful, colorful creations with the alcohol masked by alluring flavors.

Since drinking didn't stop and bootlegging increased, from where did the populace find its hooch?

  1. They imported it. Canada had no prohibition, so border states would cross the line and buy in bulk and sell at a profit back in the States.
  2. Rum-running is a name that describes exactly what was done. Boats would sail to the Caribbean, pick up a load of rum and sail it back home
  3. Industrial alcohol. Potable booze is made from fruit and grain, industrial comes from wood and is toxic. Wood alcohol or methyl alcohol has a denaturant added. This makes it stink and taste awful. Skillful chemists would remove the denaturant and then flavor was added--voila, a new drink--mortal moonshine.
  4. And speaking of moonshine--this had been manufactured in Appalachia from corn-sugar mash,to avoid excise tax. It became a new pastime. Only, many people didn't know the correct techniques and many toxins were often include.
  5. Wine and cider--most people could make these at home. Vineyards would sell juice making kits with the caveat to not let it sit too long or it would ferment.
  6. Sacramental wine. Many rabbis and priests (or rabbi and priest pretenders) ordered lots of sacramental wine for their huge congregations.
  7. Prescription. Alcohol could be used medicinally. Thus many pharmacies arose.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bootlegging In Malone

Mary Riley Road--top left, in pink
Lost Nation Road--to the right, in blue
Bootlegging was not considered a big deal--thus when Dutch Schultz arrived in Malone, NY for his second tax-evasion trial, no one thought of him as a gangster. Grandpa and Dad both made hooch in the barn.
English: Dutch Schultz 1935
English: Dutch Schultz 1935
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However Malone saw its share of crime from bootlegging--mostly gangsters from the city, but then, as now, our proximity to the border makes this area an ideal spot for smuggling.

Tales gleaned from The Malone Sesquicentennial by a renowned local reporter, Del Forkey, talk about death rides and bootleggers swerving to avoid rabbits but aiming their hulking cars at the feds. Two roads infamous for this are: the Mary Riley Road in Franklin County and Lost Nation Road in Churubusco, Clinton County. Also ill-famed is the Poke-O-Moonshine Road. To the best of my knowledge, that road is in Essex county near Elizabeth town and the popular hiking mountain of the same name.

(My map, with apologies, doesn't show in great detail the location of the roads as my skill with Photoshop is limited, but you can see their locations).

According to Forkey, We were part of a "bottleline" use to stem the illegal flow of liquor from Canada. Our area had seen bootlegging, high-jacking and gun fights. "Malone became occupied by a colorful garrison of prohibition enforcement officers and, in flush years, the community was accustomed to seeing long fleets of seized booze cars brought in almost daily."

Prohibition was enacted with the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 and repealed with the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933. Never popular, and largely ignored, by the end little was done to enforce prohibition.

Glossary of terms:
A revenuer--the federal agent in charge of stopping bootlegging
Booze, hooch, giggle juice, mule--whiskey
Cadillac--one ounce packet of cocaine or heroin
Micky, Micky Finn-a drink spiked with a knock-out drug
Rot gut, bathtub gin--prohibition alcohol
Speakeasy--an illegal bar disguised as something else

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Bootlegging: Then and Now

1930 Model "A" Ford - Deluxe Fordor ...
1930 Model "A" Ford - Deluxe Fordor Blindback #170-B (Photo credit: Timothy Wildey)
Wending my way to Ellenburg, I run into an old friend, Sgt. Martin (or whatever you call the border guys). He sports Elvis-styled sideburns and a gun. Yikes. You know I stop, not because I'm an Elvis fan. We meet on a regular basis--either on Rt. 11 of 190.

 Fortunately, Sgt. Elvis isn't interested in me or what I'm toting in my suitcase. He's looking for drugs or aliens (of the earthling persuasion), and he knows this old granny doesn't fit the profile of a drug runner.

And speaking of profiles, Sgt. Elvis fits that of North Country law enforcement fighting the opportunism of a rural border which allows good to happen--like the runaway slaves and the Underground Railroad--as well as bad.

But my tale deals with Prohibition which became law on November 18, 1918, and according to Del Forkey in the Sesqui-centennial of Malone: 1802-1952, "...a complete history of this region's part in the 'dry era' would contain some rather stirring, blood-flecked pages, including everything in the rum-toting category from bootlegging and high-jacking to running gun fights through the streets of peaceful villages" (87).

Ouch. And Sgt. Elvis thinks we have it bad.

The bootleggers means of hiding booze aren't different from drug hiding today--in the woman's bloomers (which is why they grope us in airports), baby diapers, false doors in their cars. And they loved BIG cars (carried more Mountain Dew aka hootch). Some bootleggers became such good drivers they could spin the car around and then aim for the law officers. Or they'd use decoy cars--autos that would speed off in an opposite direction allowing the one loaded with white lightening to flee.

 I love this stunt the best. A bootlegger would get through the road blocks and then be hijacked by another bootlegger who now didn't have to face the 1920's Sgt. Elvis.

 These booze runners were depraved. One even went so far as to dodge rabbits skittering across the roads, but he'd aim his car at law enforcement officials.

 Forkey claimed most of the villains were outsiders like the infamous Mobster Dutch Shultz and Legs Diamond. I'm not so sure. Many arrested for drug dealing aren't native, but many are. And we must remember:
     What has been will be again,
   what has been done will be done again;
   there is nothing new under the sun. Eccl. 1:9
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