Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bootlegging

Still going through AJ Dillow's fascinating blog Life on Rum Creek Hollow. Some things I'd been told by my father became clear to me as I read it. One was the reason for "bootlegging" or "running whiskey". Dad said his father ran whiskey for some period of time; I believe this would have been when he was out of work after they left Macbeth. I was confused by this, because Prohibition ended in 1933, and it was definitely whiskey he was running and not moonshine.  So why was my grandfather running whiskey in 1938?

AJ has the answer. In West Virginia, after Prohibition you could only buy hard liquor legally at a state liquor store. The state made it intentionally inconvenient to get liquor - there weren't many state stores, they were closed on Sundays and after midnight, and you couldn't drink in a public place. The nearest state store to Rum Creek was in Logan, which was 15 miles of twisty road away, and most miners didn't have cars anyway.

But Grandpa had a Essex for a time and he must have been using it to haul whiskey from the Logan store back to the hollow. AJ says you could buy it for $1.50 a bottle at the store and sell it for $3.00 a bottle in the hollow, right as the party was getting rolling. Totally illegal, but when your kids are starving, you do it.

I also wondered about all the moving. My dad said he moved 13 times in the 12 years he was in school. From AJ's stories I gather it was sometimes due to the availability of houses. The companies owned all the houses and almost all the land (or leased it from the railroad) so you couldn't build a house even if you had the money. If your wife and five kids were crammed into a two-room house with no water, but the mine down the hollow had a four-room house with water available, you might well quit and go to the other mine even if it meant a cut in pay.

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