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A Look Back
Prohibition, ESL Show
by Howard Rouse
June 20, 208 — It was a mere 88 years ago, in this country, that the
“great experiment” started, to be concluded in 1933, after it was
determined to be a miserable failure, as predicted by many sober
citizens. I am making reference to the Eighteenth Amendment to the
Constitution, and by the way, the only Amendment to ever be repealed.
This law of the land was passed to make it illegal to import, buy, sell
or consume alcoholic beverages, publicly, because our lawmakers
determined, after much discussion in the Halls of Congress, that alcohol
was not good for Americans and would lead to the downfall of the nation
or something worse.
This Amendment did do something and that was by the proliferation of a
few new industries to fill the void, and also the thirst in the land.
Illegal stills popped up from city tenement basements to wooded lots in
the house-barren countryside. New suppliers of goods came on the scene,
selling sugar, grain and the accoutrements to make good booze and close
behind them, was the “Hot” car business, (not stolen, but fast), to
deliver the product by out-running the Federal revenuers, even while
carrying a full load.
Then, just as today, a family member could make the beverage of choice
for the family consumption and I am just old enough to remember the tail
end of that restrictive period that saw no commercial sales of liquor.
helps to know that my father was raised on a dairy farm in Northern
Vermont, so was well-versed in the knowledge of crops but if he hadn’t
been, he would have learned. Our rental home in Massachusetts was the
first floor tenement of a two family house in Hudson with a large plot
of land in the back yard, that the landlord approved for raising crops.
The greatest portion was planted in potatoes, row after row, that my kid
brother and I became intimate with, harrowing between the rows, pulling
the weeds, hilling the soil up around the stalks and forever picking off
potato bugs, to toss into a can of kerosene. Our diligence produced
plenty of potatoes; luckily so, because it was our staple food of the
depression years, stored in a bin in the root cellar, lightly covered by
good loam, to be used for the cold winter months.
While prohibition was still the law, my brother and I, about six or
seven years old, would help out by cutting potatoes into small chunks
with a paring knife to be tossed into the old wash tub, with yeast and
whatever, to become that good old “Home Brew”, made famous in story and
song. The quality, texture and taste were lost on brother and I, ours
wasn’t to drink it, just help make it. As a family, we did have lots of
company at our house, in the early thirties, with parties, music and
singing and jokes not intended for our ears, as we tried to sleep in our
beds. The “Roaring Twenties” were alive and well which accounts for my
memory of lyrics from the songs of world war one.
would make family trips to Northern Vermont, in the old Model “A”, to
visit relatives of Mom and Dad, quite close to the border of Canada and
there was an Aunt Ruth who lived in Derby Line, VT, a town that was
right on the border. One particular house there, was situated on the
line and had its’ porch in Canada, so that the men would sit on the
porch to legally consume as much of their favorite beverage as they
could afford. (Remember times were tough.) My Dad told about being
offered money, by the bootleggers, to take a load of alcohol, in his
car, on the return trip to Boston because a car with a family was rarely
stopped. He declined because it might involve some fast driving and
possible gunfire, as the agents were
to catch rumrunners. It’s ironic, but my father’s older brother was a
Federal customs agent assigned to the train routes in Vermont/Canada.
That’s it for the personal history lesson, so on to other things.
don’t pretend to be an entertainment reporter but I do know what I like
and that was the local performance by the ESL troupe, titled, “Salute to
the USO” reprised from last year. The show was staged at the Hopkinton
Senior Center, this year.
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