I’m switching things up a bit and presenting a piece my Mother wrote for the local newspaper column “Our Readers Recall”, back in April of 2004. My Mom isn’t the most internet or computer savvy of folks. This piece was originally typewritten and snail-mailed to the newspaper office. I started transcribing a lot of her pieces onto the computer and this one is one of my favorites. Apparently we have some black sheep and skeletons in the family closet…. Hahaha! Before I forget, the “Dave” she mentions is her older brother. Anyway, here’s one of her best – Take it away Ma!
Grampa and Prohibition By Carol Lahue Hoyt Mullens 4/29/04
“After seeing a TV show recently covering the old days of the Prohibition Era, I got to remembering stories Dad used to tell us when he was in one of his story-telling moods. It seems that our Grampa Lahue, Dad’s father, was a bit involved in bootlegging.
According to Dave, Grampa’s brother-in- law Lewis was involved with the Al Capone group out of the Chicago area. Uncle Lewis made arrangements with Grampa to hide booze brought out of Canada on the farm up in St. Albans. The farm was about 20 miles or so from the border. Grampa went along with the deal for awhile. The cases of booze were hidden in the chicken coop that had a false ceiling. Guess at times there was a fair amount of activity after dark out by the old coop with vehicles, and men unloading the booze. Other nights had pick-up crews doing their thing; so it was kinda busy at times.
I remember Dad telling us about hearing gunshots at night as the G-Men chased the bootleggers down the old back roads. He said it happened periodically and was spooky to hear. At the time, Dad was just a kid, maybe 10 or 12 years old, so I’m sure it was kinda scary to hear cars speeding past the farm house with “guns-a blazing.”
Now it seems that some of Grampa’s land was not totally cleared for pasture at the time; and there was a swampy, marsh area down near the crossroads by the farm house. It had scrub trees, bushes and the like growing there – and made a good place to ditch a vehicle when things “got tight.” Getting the vehicle out though, was another matter! As a payment for Grampa’s efforts, Capone’s people arranged for Grampa to purchase a tractor – a very big tractor – or so it seemed at the time. It was a big ol’ John Deere, with huge iron wheels that had iron cleats. Grampa could pull just about anything with that ol’ beauty – including a car or small truck – hiding down in the swamp area.
I remember that tractor well. One time, in the 40’s, Grampa let me steer it as I sat on his lap. My trip lasted maybe three or four minutes till I started to go up on the front lawn. It was a thrill while it lasted though. Guess there were quite a few torn up spots on the lawn to deal with, but Grampa and Gramma didn’t seem too upset about the whole thing.
I understand Grampa also had a small portable type “still” and made moonshine. I’m sure he wasn’t the only one making brew during those years, and it certainly wasn’t a big operation. He made a few dollars here and there; but in the long run, the whole business bothered him. He wasn’t comfortable being involved, so he called it quits after awhile. He kept the “still” though – even into the 50’s. He and Gramma had sold the farm and moved to a smaller place in Fonda Junction – which is between St. A. and Swanton on Route 7. The “still” was up in the shed attic and had things like nuts and bolts stored in it. Now I had been up in the shed attic many times, but never saw it. Of course, we kids wouldn’t have known what we were looking at anyway. At that time, Grampa was into making root beer – and it was great. We’d get to sample it when we went up north to see them.
Dave says when the old out buildings at the farm were taken down many years ago, two cases of Canadian Whiskey were found up above the false ceiling of the old coop. All those years had gone by and no one had spotted them – although probably no one knew about the false ceiling until the building was taken down. What I would give to have a bottle from that period in our history – especially from Grampa and Gramma’s farm!! I asked Dave, who gave me a lot of material for this story, how he knew so many details. He said it was from listening to Dad and Grampa swapping stories when the guys went on their fishing trips up to Lake Champlain around the Swanton/ St Albans areas; and stayed with the old folks – back in the mid 50’s.
I chuckle over this whole deal – I suppose that’s not right, but I do anyway. It’s such an interesting part of our history, although a lot of it certainly wasn’t very pretty, for sure. Well, that’s my story, with Dave’s help, about our Grandfather; and his days of helping to run booze out of Canada – back in the days of Prohibition.”
- Publishing, Writing and Re-Visiting (ravencallsreflections.wordpress.com)