BOOTLEGGING—A PASSING PHASE?
A. INNES MacKENZIE
OFF the wave-washed east coast of England and amid the driving rain of cold November night a dim light rises and falls, glows and disappears. A small boat lies on the shore and men roll small kegs from the boat to an antique waggon. The men wear glazed top hats, striped jerseys, bell-bottomed trousers and whiskers. Down the slope to the sltore suddenly gallops a body of horsemen with close-buttoned, frogged blue coats, tight trousers, Hessian boots and more whiskers.
“’Ware the excise men,” shouts a seaman and they scatter to the accompaniment of pistol shots. The seamen escape up the cliffs but the kegs and cart remain in custody. It is the year 1822.
On the wet pavement of a big city, stands a small battered truck with its nearly obliterated license number somberly lit by a small red light. Men in ordinary trousers of the times, mackintoshes and cloth caps stagger down a lane hearing cases. Another flivver drives down the street hastily in the pelting November rain and ponderous, large-footed men alight, making for the truck.
“Look out! The dicks!” shouts one of the workmen and all disappear down the lane and over the fence. The truck remains in custody. It is Canada and the year 1922. The liquid is the same in both years.
When we scan the police court cases in the newspapers in these prohibition days we frequently make the remark that the unfortunates haled before the police magistrates and punished for liquor law infractions are only the small fry. “They don’t catch any of the big bootleggers,” we say and shake our heads wisely. The vision of a big, silent man, resplendent with diamond rings, smoking an expensive cigar and giving quick, curt orders to a group of hard-faced subordinates persists. He is the “big bootlegger” of our fancy—the man who deals in millions, runs in cargoes to the forbidden territory of the dry laws and never, never appears himself under any circumstances. There is a good reason for this gentleman being kept in the background. He doesn’t exist.
The trade in forbidden liquor is practically restricted to competition among retailers. There are men dealing largely in shipping cargoes to the thirsty republic but the dream of an organized ring operating in Canadian cities to circumvent the anti-whiskey laws is a dream. If it wasn’t and the police had only to corral a small group of controlling wholesalers their apprehension would be easy.
The air of secrecy surrounding the whole liquor trade provides the smoke screen of romance which helps maintain illusion. In a city of Alberta recently a small, tattered man recently appeared with a large box of sealed envelopes. He approached passers-by and whispered that he had the secret of making the world’s best substitute for standard brands. He was prepared to part with the formula for the small sum of twenty-five cents. He did a land-office business. His box of envelopes changed hands rapidly and in the afternoon he disposed of another supply of recipes for home-brew. When opened the recipe read as follows:—
"Chase a bull-frog for three miles and gather the hops. To the hops add 3 gallons of tan bark, 3 pints of shellac and 6 hars of home-made soap. Boil the mixture for 36 hour; and strain through an I.W.W. banner to keep it from working. Add one grasshopper to give it the
The Ever-Present Still
TN LARGE cities the supply of whiskey is made right on the premises. Those who boast that they have a friend who sells them "the real stuff” are usually stuffing, not stuffed. A good fire, a boiling mash and the faked labels which follow' fast is the song of the city bootlegger. In the case of Ontario cities, and Toronto particularly, a little liquor trickles through from Montreal via auto and clever concealment on the railways, in suit cases and in other ways, and this supply of real liquor is eked out by sales from the big stocks built up when liquor could legally be brought through. But this supply would have been exhausted ten times over if the ever-faithful still was not working.
The railways have a police service of their own and it is an efficient one. Just a short time ago a shipment of fish left a Quebec point for a Western Ontario city. It left in cold storage, case upon case of sea fish. There
could be no doubt about it being genuine for did not the fish tails stick out from the ends of nearly every crate? Alas, the camouflage attracted the attention of an official in the special service of the National Railways, from its very excellence.
He tried playfully tweaking the fish tails on box after box. In each and every case the tail came away in his hand. There was no odor of decaying fish in the refrigerator car to explain the phenomenon and the tails showed unmistakable evidence of having been severed from their parent fish by some sharp instrument. A search followed and some sixty cases of a fair brand of Scotch remained as spoils in the hands of the Ontario Govern-
Not long since a railway in the wild district north of Georgian Bay was much bothered by the facility with which their extra gangs managed to procure bad whiskey. When they should have been up with the lark tightening bolts or attending to grading and the laying of new ties many of the laborers would be dreaming of far-away Galicia under some thicket and boasting a breath calculated to drive away the black flies. No one approached the gang during the day time who could not be accounted for and the Inland Revenue men were called in. The foremen were puzzled for the liquor did not come in on trains and it always appeared, no matter how far down the track the work train might move the big extra gang.
An energetic revenue man, accompanied by an Indian guide, solved the mystery. They found three stills, all on streams navigable by canoe and situated some miles apart. The owner kept them all working and travelled from one to another to oversee the work of his assistants. Wherever the extra gang happened to be from the nearest of his distilleries he would slip down to the track in his canoe with a load of the swamp liquor. This was service!
In Toronto, Hamilton, London and other towms and cities of Ontario ninety per cent, of the liquor peddled in drinks or by the bottle is made from mash by bootleggers. It has the addition of burnt sugar and manufactured labels of prominent Scotch and rye whiskey makers. This holds good of every province where the government is not in the liquor trade. And much of the whiskey shipped ,out by Quebec liquor traders is inferior bulk whiskey with superior bottle labels. Each distiller has his group of retailers who buy from him and who sell either by the drink at fifty cents apiece to visiting customers or by the bottle. The distiller gets an average price of $35 a dozen for his product. The retailer demands as high as $8 a bottle but will frequently allow a considerable discount and close at $6 or even less. At the same time he will complain that he has to pay all the way from $75 a case to $90 a case for the liquor. He is lying. Still, as he may at any time make the acquaintance of a magistrate, he must keep well exercised his gift of romance.
IN EVERY city, Halifax, Moncton, •*Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Cal-j gary, there are these small wholesalers^ either distilling from their home-made stills or bringing in shipments ranging from a couple of cases to fifty or sixty cases by clever concea’ment on the trains or by auto. The only “big fellow” capable of .keeping tab on the multitudinous workings in the distribution of wet goods to the dry can be, and is, the giant demand. The rumrunning over the border is another thing. The law allows whiskey to be transported to the border by reputable firms and paves the way for the opera-1 tions of the “big fellow” in his dealings with the liquor peddlers across the line. It has been charged many times that there are leaks in this line to the United States. A “theft” of an entire carload is easy and ha3 happened many times, so many times that the occurrence has become a commonplace.
The efforts of amateurs in the whiskey-running line, whether they enter it for the profit or the sheer love of the game, cause every bit as much amusement among the professionals as the vagaries of a “busher” recruit at a baseball training camp or the efforts of aspiring Thespians at an “amateur night” performances When the joke can be told with the civic or provincial liquor sleuths coming in on the wrong side it has an additional savor to the men in the trade. As an example, they tell the following yarn of the Finnish colony of a north country town who liked tjhe wages and opportunities of Canada but objected to the opinion of the Canadian majority which said that strong drink was a pitfall and that not even a Finn should look upon wine, red, white or colorless.
Yan Beersudsky, of the colony, was going back to Finland to resume acquaintance with the old life, pick out an old-country girl and bring her back to enjoj married life in Canada. Before leaving he and divers others cooked up a little scheme whereby the liquoi laws could be evaded and his memory remain bright in the community until his return. When Yan reached Montreal he sent a wire back giving the lamentable news of his death. Further, the wire told Tomas Beersudsky his uncle, usually answering to the time-keeper a¡ “Mike,” that the body would arrive from Montreal in f rough box the following day. A funeral procession re moved the rough box, with its wreath of immortelles from the baggage car with becoming reverence. Thi women even broke into loud sobs. They were not ii the confidence of the men-folk.
A wake was decreed at the house of Tomas and tool place the same evening. It was an unqualified success In the meantime the nearest agent of the dry laws go wind of something peculiar and, in the morning, alightet at the station and proceeded to the home of Toma where high wassail had prevailed the night before. H kicked open the door and entered. Unconscious Finn lay in every section of the house. In the kitchen stoo1 the open rough box and empty bottles gave mute evi dence of its contents. Tomas lay with his head proppe in one corner. By dint of repeated prodding with th toe of a number ten boot the officer secured a hearing.
“Where is the body that you had the wake over las night?” demanded the official.
“He voke,” replied Tomas, wearily closing the eye h had opened and relapsing into slumber.
No Credit Allowed
' I 'HE bane of the bootlegger is credit in any fort whether it be by trusting his business associates i his customers. And cheques are anathema. For ol vious reasons the merchant in liquor hesitates to tal even the best of cases to court. In the bad old da; when Quebec firms were allowed to ship liquor as f; as the Manitoba boundary some of these firms mai tained travellers who called upon the busy bootlegg much as a shoe traveller visits the shoe stores. O traveller did a large business previous to the cutting t process. He sold his goods and collected money for I firm. One day he dashed into the place of business ol customer and informed the bootlegger that he had return to Montreal that night and was short of fun* Then he cashed a cheque for upwards of $100. He i
peated this process at three other places. The cheques are still in Toronto, much in use as a concrete reason why their owners refuse to entertain the idea of selling by cheque.
On the prairies the demand of the dry states makes local supply precarious and expensive. Incidentally it was on these same prairies where the term “bootlegger” originated. It’s a far cry from the western gentleman with the long boots who sold a surreptitious nip from his concealed bottle to the delivery bootlegger who calls at the door with likeness to a physician—with the possible exception that he has more money. The liquor dealer in the local supply business in the West must transport his commodity long distances, take many chances and can handle only small quantities.
At Tête Jaune Cache not so long ago the mounted police struck a new game. A dozen pigs arrived by refrigerator car. They were not, apparently, the “blind pigs” of the bootlegger vernacular but butchered, frozen, scraped and cleaned hogs of commerce. One strange thing attracted the attention of a curious constable. The pigs, in place of having their bodies opened wide to the view of purchaser by the customary split down the middle, were carefully sewn up and retained their natural corpulent form. The constable opened one hog—and eight bottles of undigested rye whiskey came to view. Each hog had apparently made its last dinner of a similar diet.
Down by the sounding sea the men enforcing the Nova Scotia act apply their sounding to pretty much everything in the way of a keg, case or container. Nova Scotia gets a lot of its imported liquor for the traffic from Montreal, and a little from the West Indies. As Nova Scotia has been mostly dry for a long time the swamp whiskey business may be said to supply ninetyfive per cent, of'the wet needs of the unregenerate. Outside of the import business to our thirsty cousins, the Maritime Provinces may be said to provide some of the “big bootleggers.” They operate mainly from Quebec and work in districts.
Some short time ago a train crew had a load of molasses which had come from the West Indies via Montreal. It was going through to Truro. One cask leaked and a cooper was called to fix things up. In probing he found a tin edge just inside the sprung stave. Molasses forms the base for rum but a chemical change which produced rum bound in ten separate tin containers in each cask was a surprise to even the officers.
But What a Drink!
FOR A long time an organized gang worked a good and profitable trick on the maritime railways. Railway detectives searched all empty cars carefully. The smugglers knew this. They also knew that the railway detectives conducted their search at night and in a considerable hurry.
They evolved the bright idea of loading up an empty when freight trains stopped at certain points and then with stolen seals they sealed up the car.
This was a source of supply at Moncton and it was also used successfully at Coteau Junction.
Through a number of towns and cities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan cars of slack coal served the needs of the whiskey runners. The separate bottles were packed away in the slack coal, each supply agent picking out the cars billed to the nearest point in his district and keeping careful tab of the number.
Sometimes a train crew will yield to the temptation of getting a forbidden drink. Recently this had peculiar consequences A small keg was on its way west to a western university.
Ostensibly it contained alcohol. It was tapped and the amount of severa' drinks around drawn from it. At the divisional point the startled train crew learned that the alcohol was merely preservative for the head of a Chinaman which was destined for anatomical purposes. They all looked sick the next morning.
The suit-case route has been a good thing in its t me but it has been overdone. Capable inspectors have made the game precarious although within the last few
weeks the lack of acquaintance with luxury on the part of a couple of inspectors provided bootlegging circles with another funny story and the inspectors with further experience. It happened between Montreal and Toronto and the plot revolved around a stateroom on a sleeper. The inspectors knew that a plot was on foot and had a watcher stationed in a seat close to the stateroom.
Ere the train pulled out eleven suit-cases arrived and were taken into the stateroom. The watcher remained on guard and saw that no one came out. Then came the inspectors. They searched the compartment and then searched the car. They examined the window of the stateroom and saw that it had not been disturbed. The porter stood with his back against the open door and watched the search.
“If yo’ all gen’tlemen is through ah wants to make up de bunk. Dere’s a gen’lemen taken dis room,” he remarked.
The baffled searchers left but they also left the watcher who saw one man with a black club bag leave the stateroom at Toronto. Afterwards the inspectors were told that the suit-cases were in the wash-room of the compartment. The outside door of a stateroom, when opened, covers the door of the wash-room completely. The inspectors had never ridden in a stateroom and didn’t know the arrangement.
Incidentally, the wily negro porter, through whose loyaltyto a trust the liquor had come through, turned traitor. He decamped with the eleven suit-cases at Toronto. The importer learned that even a bootlegging chain is but as strong as its weakest link.
Overworking One Baby
THE fraternity of the bootlegger, as yet, has failed to secure that close co-operation against the intrusive outsider and the meddlesome police necessary for the safety of the craft Bootleggery has failed to become “class conscious” as the socialist would say. Most of the information laid with the police in the larger cities in Canada comes from some business rival of the party complained of or from someone in the same business who considers himself to have been defrauded in a deal. In only one regard do the bootleggers show a disposition to co-operate. The keen-witted Children of the Promise, who received the gift of financial ability in exchange for their barren birthright, probably evolved the idea.
A police magistrate in one of the large cities re-
cent'y remarked upon one strange case he had noted. As a family man he was well able to tell one baby from another. He pensively pointed out that a certain babe in arms had been having rather hard luck with mothers in the last few months, the magistrate having felt it his duty to send several of them to jail for dealing in liquor.
Liquor peddlers long ago found out how to avoid the six months’ jail term imposed by the Ontario act for a second offence, by shifting the onus on to wife son, nephew or the stranger within the gate, adopted for legal purposes. They also found that a magistrate was in-
clined to temper justice with mercy when a woman appeared with a brood of children. If children sufficient to the occasion are not in the family they may be borrowed.
In most cities there now exist three separate grades of rum seller. There is the peddler who sells by glass or bottle, the wholesaler who does business by the case and the jobber has now put in an appearance. Some months back the little fellows began to find it wise not to have any stock on hand when raided. The liquor was bad evidence and meant an appreciable money loss if seized. So now the jobber, who does not sell to anyone beyond his narrow and well-tried list of drink-dispensing customers, lays in a stock. This enables a business to be run with one bottle only on the premises and that in the pocket of the proprietor. He can always go to the jobber nearby and get another if custom is good. The advantage of this system is obvious and the majority of bootleggers, having been eaught once, no longer have the legal right to have liquor on their premises.
Rapidly diminishing stocks and the extreme diff culty in getting liquor smuggled through into the dry provinces has given the opportunity for a new profession. This is a cellar guard. In Toronto recently men guarding a number of cellars at so much a month captured one of a gang of whiskey raiders who attempted to enter a wellfilled cellar. When any bootlegger offers to sell a good quantity of genuine liquor it may be taken for granted that it has been stolen from some private stock.
Home Brew vs. Christmas Cake
ONE Canadian newspaper runs a column in which questions, wise and otherwise, are answered. The man handling this column received a letter some while back from a woman in the north end of his city. She wanted to know if there was any way in which she could dispose of a stock of whiskey, about forty cases. Her husband had fled with another woman to the United States leaving behind the stock with which he had been bootlegging. The text of the letter and the address happened to get to an enterprising liquor vendor. Two nights later he appeared with two cars and an assistant, passed himself off as an inland revenue officer, seized the liquor and carted it away. To this day the woman thinks that the seizure was legal.
Let us digress for a moment to tell of the experience of a Hamilton commercial traveller who picked up a wonderful recipe for manufacturing a brew. The recipe consisted largely of oatmeal, rais ns, currants and a number of other condiments. He boiled the mixture for days, got no result, added water and boiled some more. Finally the friend who supplied the recipe received a wire which read:— “Home brew a failure but finest Christmas cake I ever ate.’ Liquor peddlers have pretty nearly given up any hope of being able to maintain an underground line into the dry provinces for goods in any quantity and are placing their reliance more and more on the home brew still. While most of them don’t care one iot a what kind of poison they dispense providing they makeit cheaply and get a gcod profit, one man, by his unusual care for his customers’ health, deserved a better fate. He secured the services of a Scotsman who had had long experience with Scottish distilleries and insta!ed a plant which cost considerable money The police got it before ten gallons had been sold.
In a Toronto “blind pig" several posties in uniform had been more or less in the habit of calling. They got to know that Jake, the keeper, kept his stock-in-trade inside the front room Chesterfield. When Jake left one day to visit the kitchen three visiting postmen, having finished their drink, strolled out. With them went about twenty bottles of whiskey in the mail sacks. The drinks and the laugh were on the hou.c.
Good Samaritan Tricked
npHE bootlegger, however, has no more scr“^es ^ A betraying or cheating customer, ri ^.^
story is told of a commercial man and kl g j ,
as the scene of the exploit. A woman with a bab> a two club bags was alighting from « he » ratn . n.^ ( ^ ed the aid of the ^woman said that she
It was very heavy. However, me Continued on page 53
A Passing Phase?
Continued from page 15
intended taking a taxi and headed for one standing at the station curb. An officer laid his hand on the traveller s shoulder and demanded a view of the inside of the club bag. The traveller told the officer that it belonged to the lady with the baby who had, by this time, seated herself in a
“Î never saw the man in my life before,” said the fair bootlegger, sweetly, and the taxi drove off. The traveller paid a fine in preference to having his firm hear anything of the happening.
A Vancouver bootlegger had a distressing experience in making a purchase of the banner product of an Ontario distillery just before British Columbia decided to enter the liquor business. He purchased some twenty cases of rye whiskey which had been brought through by clever smuggling. In a place in Cordova street the seller opened case after case, abstracted a bottle, pulled the cork and demonstrated that the goods were as specified even though the cases were disguised. The buyer, however, got just one bottle of liquor to a case. The rest were filled with water.
By having the bottle labels all turned on the same side with the exception of one in each case the wily swindler was able to pick out the genuine bottle as fast as the cases opened. ,
Down along the border where Quebec and the New England states come together caravans operate which would almost remind veterans of the flow of traffic up towards the front line as twilight set in. The caravans of motor trucks and touring cars are usually well guarded and the idea of putting machine guns up to stop the traffic wasn’t far from a necessity if the U.S. really wanted the flow restricted. By Rouse’s Point, through Malone, Derby Line and other points the liquor runs at night time. The payment comes in U.S. bills when the liquor is through. Up to the point of delivery the risk is the smug-
Why Spot Cash Prevails
SOME time since, before Quebec took over the liquor stocks, a buyer from New York got in touch with an astute Montrealer. The Montrealer was on friendly terms with the.owner of a liquor itore. He persuaded the New Yorker that he was a partner in the liquor store Mid that the stock was for sale at about half ts real value. On the strength of the ‘sale” for rum-running purposes of about 1100,000 worth of liquor at prohibition jrices, the Montreal man got a cash denosit of $5,000. When explanations finilly came the liquor store owner denied ill co»nection, said that he was merely an icquaintance and that he thought all dong the New Y'ork man was a prospective )urchaser of the building. By telling his yarn to the dealer the clever swindler everal times showed the New Yorker he contents of the cellar and store and eft him with the impression that the real rroprietor approved of the sale. 1 his is me of the numerous reasons why spot •ash is the medium of bootlegging ex:hange and also explains most of what ire known as “bootlegger murders.” "Selling by the drink in dives through-
out the cities is gro^jpg scarcer and scarToronto, a ¿an example, several y,.ar.agri saw litenwy hundreds of these illegal saloons. ThJy are diminishing in number rapidly for/a number of reasons. For one, only the Mrdened and moderately well-off drinkef can either stand or afford the stuff eld. Then the heavy fines may be metimce or twice but when they start to co Je oftener, with the accompanying jail Jerm, it takes the cream off the business..
The jail terra has sometimes been an advantage. Ole bootlegger, who operated in Dunda street, Toronto, managed to get caught ithout any hope of escape at his trial, ms wife took the blame and was sent to jal. While there it developed that the wonin needed a minor operation and this waf performed. The pair admitted thatfhey had figured all this out and that *e conviction and sentence w’ere lookewtpon as a clear profit. Since that, howeJer, much of the gilt has been taken off *e gingerbread by two fines of more thatf a thousand dollars.
Foreigi» peddlers, with their carts of junk, do 3 lot of the delivering of illicit liquor inlne big cities and towns. Sometimes t\gy also solicit trade. A lady with strong temperance principles recently moved *to another house and, in cleaning outfhe cellar, discovered many empty bottle* She called in a junk man to disposé of the legacy. The junk man surveyed the bottles and then whispered:-“iMy, if you vant it a bottle I bring one yy time $7. Good stuff.”
Perhaps some day the history' of the bootleggers will be written with their triumphs and failures and the humor which accompanied their operations upon occasions. They are a vanishing race. Quebec-and British Columbia have put them out by competition. In other provinces they are hunted and harried to the point where they must drive away their supporters with poisonous home brew. It looks as if they couldn’t last long enough to even gain a place on the income tax form.