Men Will Kill for Whisky
If Public Opinion tolerates the booze racket, the booze racket soon flouts Law and Order
SINCE the time when the dedication of the United States to the cause of Volsteadism became an accomplished fact, the Border Cities have been harassed and bedevilled with a spinose liquor problem which was none of their seeking; but within their own boundaries that problem has grown or declined precisely as Public Opinion wished it to grow or decline.
The original difficulty was wished on their thriving community by the twin accidents that their shoreline is a scant mile distant from United States territory, and that while the United States is legally dry, Canada is legally wet.
The problem still exists, as has been demonstrated in this narrative by the records of the murder of Jack Kennedy, the kidnapping of Sam Low, and the hold-up of Charlie Williams; all major crimes perpetrated against Border Cities residents during the past year by gangsters operating from a base in Detroit, and for which no guilty man has yet been punished.
That is true; but, insofar as their own boundaries are concerned, in so far as crime has flourished or faded in the Border Cities themselves, their moral condition during the past ten feverish years has been good, indifferent, or terrible, at various periods; and during each period of virtue, wickedness or rampant vice, the current condition has been a straightforward interpretation of Public Opinion.
When Border Cities taxpayers wished their townships to be rid of bootleggers, gamblers and the like, the bootleggers, gamblers and their cohorts of parasites departed rapidly—as happened quite recently. The Border Cities are what they are to-day, because Public Opinion decided in the Fall of 1927 that a clean-up was necessary. In those Ontario towns which front the city of Detroit on the south shore of the Detroit River, the man who claims that Public Opinion is a spent force can be sure of a hearty burst of laughter as his reward. Those folks know differently. They’ve proved it.
The Booze Rush
HPHE history goes back to the year 1919, when residents of the Border Cities suddenly discovered that Detroiters were willing to pay $15 a bottle for Scotch whisky. It seemed to certain shrewd business men of the community that here was Opportunity; and they proceeded promptly to arrange ways and means for grasping it.
Ontario, of course, was legally dry. Under the provisions of the Ontario Temperance Act then in force, the import or sale of intoxicating liquors in Ontario, save for medicinal purposes, was forbidden, and severe penalties were provided for violators.
But, human nature being the frail thing it is, there were plenty of citizens willing to take a chance with the law for the sake of the easy money thrust toward them from every side. Long established roadhouses and shore resorts which had subsisted in simple honest fashion without making anybody’s fortune on the sale to the automobile trade of “fish, frog and chicken dinners,’’ found it suddenly profitable to enlarge their premises, instal elaborate orchestras, put in polished dance floors, and double their staffs of attendants in order to accommodate the throngs of Americans,—who packed the ferries to such an extent that it became necessary to
increase the service,—intent upon searching out congenial rendezvous where joy was unconfined and the red wine or the yellow Scotch would flow for anyone who had the price.
The handful of provincial officers charged with
custodianship of the dignity of the law in the Border Cities were helpless against this mighty immigration of seekers for alcoholic goodtimes. They were further handicapped by the undoubted connivance of many of the local police officials, responsible in each municipality to a different superior authority, some of whom were frankly venal and others merely acquiescent. Opinion was divided upon the question as to whether or not it was a good thing for the Border Cities to establish themselves as a fifteen-mile-long oasis for the parched citizens of Detroit. There could be no doubt that a lot of new money was being circulated. The roadhouses, catering to many times the number of their former clientel, epurchased lavishly of food, furniture decorations and other supplies, and these were bought naturally from local merchants. Business was good. Moreover, a number of sincere and influential citizens were restive under the restrictions of the Ontario Temperance Act. Wet by conviction these people were favorable to a lenient interpretation of the law, pending the amendment which they felt was bound to come, and which did eventually arrive with the Ferguson government and the Liquor Control Act. At the referendum on the Ontario Temperance Act, while the province as a whole voted to sustain the measure, the Border Cities went emphatically wet.
With public opinion in this uncertain or even frankly antagonistic frame of mind, enforcement of the provincial prohibition law became more and more difficult as the illicit liquor sellers grew more prosperous and bolder. Ugly incidents began to crop up. Hijackers were active and impudent. Newspapers reported the operations of a widespread booze ring in Kent and Essex counties. The Stevens Inn, a favorite caravansery in Windsor, now out of business, was raided in July, 1919, and there followed a free-for-all gun fight between the law enforcement officers and the indignant rummies who had been so rudely disturbed at their favorite pastime.
Dope was in the papers, too. George Douglas, a negro was taken with $2,000 worth of drugs in his possession, and a few days later James J. Brady, United States revenue collector at Detroit, made public with some bitterness his belief that Windsor was being used as headquarters for a determined gang of dope smugglers who were giving his department no end of trouble.
The Spracklin Crusade
THE turmoil continued, grew more violent. Charges began to be made publicly that certain officials were neglecting their duties; and then, in the early summer of 1920, the Reverend J. O. L. Spracklin turned loose the heavy artillery of his fervent pulpit oratory Here was the genesis of the spectacular rum-hunting career of this young high-spirited parson, which was to bring him to the prisoner’s dock charged with taking human life.
Les Spracklin was a born crusader with all the attributes and the failings which go to make up a zealot. They called him the Fighting Parson. His big frame supported a handsome large head with a defiant pompa-
dour of black hair brushed back from a high forehead. His wide mouth smiled easily for his friends, but set in a grim line against his foes. He had been a football player and an amateur boxer of some skill. His congregation at the Sandwich Methodist Church adored him.
Spracklin’s loathing of liquor and the business of selling liquor was certainly sincere, but he was young and possessed by the impulsive impatience of youth. To his mind the problem was simple. As he saw it, this shoddy traffic which was corrupting public officials and debauching the Border Cities was illegal, outlawed. Then stop it. No compromise with the Devil was his slogan, and he really believed it to be as simple as that. Certain more or less authentic information came into his hands and he launched a series of hotly-worded sermons which set the community in an uproar. He didn’t choose his phrases and he spared no reputations. The bootleggers, he charged, controlled the police of Sandwich.
The middle-aged Chief of Police,
Masters, resigned, demanding an investigation. Spracklin turned his attention to the Provincial Police and the License Inspector.
He was out for results. He got them.
His friends applauded. The bootleg fraternity discussed the new menace with naughty words.
Word of the hullaballoo reached Toronto, penetrated to the ears of W. E. Raney, then AttorneyGeneral for the Province and so the highest authority in this matter of law enforcement. Mr. Raney invited the Reverend J. O. L. Spracklin to call at his office. To the Fighting Parson, the Attorney-General said, in effect:
“Look here. You’re talking a lot about conditions in the Border Cities. How would you like the job of cleaning them up?”
Such a suggestion was exactly in line with Spracklin’s own thought. When he left Mr. Raney’s office on that day at the end of July, 1920, he was not only a Minister of the Gospel, but a special constable of the Province of Ontario as well. The war was on and the Reverend J. O. L. Spracklin had girded up his loins for the fray.
The girding was literal as well as metaphorical, for one of his first acts following his appointment was to provide himself with a serviceable automatic which he carried in a holster strapped to his hip. It is interesting, as an indication of the sheer ingenuousness of the man that he never took the trouble to obtain a permit to carry this deadly weapon.
His first official act was to enlist as his chief aides, S. M. Hallam and William H. Hallam, known in the Border Cities as the Hallam Brothers. Then Spracklin began his campaign with a detonation that was heard from Tecumseh to La Salle. Dashing up and down the riverfront in his powerful car—the Government provided him with two automobiles—he raided right and left, and while he did not always bring home the evidence, he did succeed in making life very uncomfortable for nervous Detroit drinkers and their hosts the Border Cities innkeepers. Immediately,
Les Spracklin became front page news not only in the Border Cities, but in Toronto, and in every large city in Canada. It was not only that he raided, but he raided with a zest, with an enthusiasm approaching ferocity which was most upsetting to undercover lawbreakers who asked nothing more than to be left alone and were willing to pay a fair price for a reasonable degree of peace and quiet.
Here for one thing, was a man you couldn’t bribe.
He liked to make trouble. Special constable Spracklin was a new type and the
racketeers didn't approve of him. Especially irritating
were the alarums and excursions of Les Spracklin to Bev. Trumble. Trumble was proprietor of the Chappell House in Sandwich, a roadhouse where liquor was being dispensed nightly, and which was only just around the corner from Spracklin’s church and his residence. Trumble knew Spracklin well. He knew the Spracklin family and all their connections. Spracklin addressed him by one or the other of his nicknames. He was “Bev.” or “Babe” to Spracklin, and Spracklin was “Les” to him. Each of them thought the other hopelessly wrong in his chosen mode of life, but they
remained superficially friends, until the Fighting Parson turned rum hunter.
Trumble lived at the Chappell House and his wife helped him to run it. He was as frankly a wet as Leslie Spracklin was avowedly a dry. Both of them contemptuous of compromise, it was inevitable that sooner or later their opposed wills should clash.
From the time that he became a special constable until the black night when he shot down “Babe” Trumble to save his own life, Leslie Spracklin did not enter the Chappell House. There was a reason for this, and the reason was Mrs. Spracklin. She exacted from Spracklin a promise which he kept inviolate until that November dawn, that he would not raid the Chappell House but would content himself with endeavoring to scare or to persuade “Babe” Trumble out of business. Circumstances conspired against her fond plan, and while the development she most feared did not come
about, the inevitable tragedy which she foresaw did happen.
There was a picnic, and among the picnickers were Beverly Trumble and Mrs. Annie Bell. Mrs. Bell is a sister of Leslie Spracklin. Trumble, seeing her, drew her aside. At the moment Mrs. Bell’s crusading brother and the energetic Hallams were at the peak of their joint career as fearless rum raiders.
“Look here, Annie,” said Trumble, well disposed enough. “Why don’t you talk to Les? He’ll get himself into serious trouble, sure, if he keeps on. You tell him to quit, Annie, for his own good. He don’t know what he’s up against. I tell you, Annie, men’ll kill for whisky quicker than they’ll kill for money.”
Mrs. Bell carried this ominous message back to her brother. He laughed, and buckled the leather holster with its automatic around his hips, ready for another raid; but he didn’t forget.
Spracklin was beginning to get into other difficulties. One of the people who thought he was asking for trouble was W. N. Mousseau, License Inspector for the Border Cities. Not unreasonably, Mousseau had resented the Spracklin appointment in the first place, and he felt that the young zealot’s high-handed methods were rather a handicap than a help to the normal processes of law enforcement. Also, he knew the Hallams. Therefore Inspector Mousseau talked seriously to the Attorney-General.
This was in October, 1920, after about three months of Spracklin-Hallam fireworks along the Detroit River. Mr. Raney sent for Spracklin and spoke to him on this and that. Immediately thereafter, on October 23, 1920, Spracklin summarily dismissed the Hallams “for cause, announcing at the same time his intention to organize another raiding squad and “stick to the finish.’
The Hallam boys didn’t like being fired. _ They cried aloud about injustice and hinted at startling “revelations.” In the same week a committee of those Windsor citizens who had been increasingly uneasy concerning the Spracklin-Hallam operations, made formal charges against the young special constable’s administration of his office. Specifically the charges were that vast quantities of liquor confiscated by the Hallams, under Spracklin’s authority, had mysteriously disappeared and no account of its ultimate destination had ever been rendered.
The Attorney-General promised an immediate investigation. The Ontario government appointed a special committee which held a preliminary hearing on November 4. Spracklin went right on raiding, pending the result of the investigation. He announced that it was all a plot concocted by the liquor interests who sought his downfall but his conscience was clear.
The Chappell House Shooting
THIS was the state of affairs when, early on the morning of November 6, Spracklin and his newly organized posse, returning from looking over certain roadhouses in the eastern section of the Border Cities drove by the Chappell House. Spracklin was ahead, the other car following. As he passed Trumble’s establishment Spracklin saw two men on the lawn in front of the place. By the pallid light of a nearby street lamp he observed that one of these was sitting on the curb, his head in his hands. The other bent over him as though carrying on a conversation. Spracklin stopped his car and jumped out.
The man on the curb he found was Ernest DesLippe whom he knew as one of a number of minor bootleggers using Trumble's place for headquarters. The second man was
Trumble himself; but what drew Spraeklin’s shocked attention was the fact that DesLippe’s face was a red smear of blood. He had been holding his head in his hands and his fingers were crimson.
Now Leslie Spracklin had solemnly pledged his wife that he would avoid conflict with Beverly Trumble, and that he would not raid the Chappell House; but this was different. Here was a man grievously hurt, perhaps dying. The Fighting Parson turned on Trumble, his eyes blazing with indignation.
“What’s coming off here?” he demanded.
“You keep out of this, Les.” Trumble said. “This is no affair of yours We had a little trouble. He’ll be all right.”
“So!” cried Spracklin angrily, “You’ve taken to beating up your own men, have you? Lord knows, I fight you hard enough, but when you start fighting among yourselves, that’s too much.”
Trumble was instantly furious. All the old antagonism flared in him, his hot anger fed by the liquor he had consumed. His voice was harsh with rage as he turned on the parson.
“You keep your damn snooping nose out of my affairs,” he shouted. “I’ve warned you, now, Spracklin. If you know what’s good for you, stay out, see!” He turned and ran up the short walk, up the wooden steps, into the house. He slammed and bolted the front door and called a man from a back room to stand on guard.
“Keep that lousy so-and-so out of this house,” he snarled.
Spracklin’s squad arrived. They attempted to get some account of what had happened from the alcohol-fuddled brain of Ernest DesLippe. It was useless. All the sodden man would, or could say, was that there had been “a little trouble.”
“I’m going in,” declared Spracklin at last, blazing with righteous wrath. “They can’t get away with something like murder on my front step. That’s too much.” He jumped for the steps, his faithful aides at his heels.
Finding the door barred and guarded they prowled around the verandah until they discovered an unlocked window. Through this they made entrance, Spracklin in advance, and moved toward the bar in the rear which was lighted, and off which two rooms opened.
Two women were in one of these rooms. One of them sat on a table and swung her legs, eyeing the intruders with hostile insolence.
In the bar they found three men. Basil “Jack” Bannon, a Windsor bootlegger;
Edward Smith, also of Windsor, and one William Morton, of Detroit. Neither Trumble nor his wife was to be seen.
Spracklin began to question the trio about DesLippe. Morton said there had been a fight, and that he had struck DesLippe. He was lying. It was Bannon who had fought with the injured man. Morton said later that he lied “to save trouble.”
Some of Spracklin’s men were poking around the other rooms when Trumble suddenly appeared. He was brandishing a pistol and demanding to be shown warrants or badges, or some sort of authority for this violation of his home. The members of the squad moved into the bar as Spracklin stepped from it into an adjoining room which was unoccupied. There he encountered the berserk bootlegger.
The weight of evidence at the subsequent trial was that Trumble had advanced on Spracklin, shouting threats, with oaths.
Spracklin, testifying in his own defence, swore this.
“He came toward me,” Spracklin said on the stand, “shouting, ‘By God! I’ll get you,
Spracklin. I’ll shoot you where you stand.’
He thrust the revolver against my stomach.
I hesitated a second. It seemed like a year. Then I was convinced that it was his life or mine, and I fired.”
Two bullets entered Trumble’s body. One lodged in his leg, the other in his abdomen, severing a vital artery. As Spracklin pressed the trigger, Mrs. Trumble With a kimono over her nightgown entered the room. She saw her husband sway, collapse, slide to the floor. The man Smith raised his head. He died in a few minutes in Smith’s arms.
Spracklin drove to Windsor and surrendered to the police. He said simply, “I have killed ‘Babe’ Trumble.”
The inquest exonerated Spracklin and the coroner praised his courage. The courtroom was packed and officers searched each spectator for arms before permitting him to enter. Several witnesses testified that they had seen Trumble flourishing a pistol, but the weapon was not produced. It has never been found.
Mrs. Lulu Trumble, newly a widow and with hatred in her dark eyes, swore on the Holy Bible that her husband did not have a weapon. She had been ill, she
swore, and when Spracklin fired, her husband was carrying in one hand a lighted cigarette and in the other a hot water bottle which he was bringing to her for her comfort.
There followed a hectic period in the Border Cities. Spracklin went away for a month’s leave of absence, and during his vacation all the hostile public opinion which had been smouldering against him during his career as a rum raider crystallized in a demand that he stand trial in spite of the result of the inquest. Nothing else was talked of in the Border Cities during this time but the Spracklin case, and in February, 1921, the Reverend J. O. L. Spracklin was called upon to stand trial, charged with manslaughter.
Sir William Mulock, Chief Justice of Ontario, presided and the proceedings opened on February 21. DesLippe, an important witness was ill at the Hotel Dieu in Windsor, of pneumonia. He died before the trial ended. Jack Bannon swore that Trumble had a gun, and two worthy citizens, one a tailor and one a mechanic, in whose workshop cash registers are repaired, swore that on two separate occasions when Trumble had business with them, they had seen him with such a weapon. He had taken it from a hip pocket when he
left a suit of clothes to be pressed, the tailor said, and the cash register expert swore that once, when Trumble had brought him a register to be adjusted he had asked him to make some repairs on a revolver.
But they couldn’t shake Lulu Trumble. She swore and reiterated vehemently that Trumble had no gun, had never had a gun. “He was not a man for a gun,” she declared, and she stuck to her statement.
One witness thought he had seen Mrs. Trumble herself with a gun on the night of the killing. Her eyes were red vengeance, as she said, through tight lips, her gaze full on Spracklin’s white face.
“If I’d had a gun there’d have been two murders that night.”
The jury was out for less than an hour. Their verdict was “not guilty.” Spracklin left the court a free man, albeit a broken one. To-day, although still young, his hair is white. He labors in an obscure church in a small Michigan town; and more important than all, his excess of zeal, his indiscretions, his disregard for the
reasonable legal rights of his opponents had dealt a body blow to the cause he had nearest his heart.
The Bootleggers’ Ball
PUBLIC Opinion was now lined up with the liquor traffic.
Then began the period of prosperity for the booze seller, legal and illegal. Spracklin was definitely disposed of, and it was certain that no man of similar enthusiasm would be appointed in his place. The Border Cities were fed up on fireworks. Roadhouses and speakeasies blossomed gorgeously in the warmth of official connivance and public complaisance. There was a great deal of prosperity, of a sort. Many interesting and significant things occurred during this period. Consider a few typical incidents just by way of establishing the background.
Consider for example, the exciting career of Cecil Smith. Cecil was a taxi-driver, and it was not long before he became very well acquainted with the liquor racket. He knew what inns could best be relied upon to provide his passengers from Detroit with the especial brand of excitement they craved, whether it was wine, women, song, or the little white rolling ball. Before long, Cecil eased himself into the racket. A man naturally shrewd and equipped with the moral scruples of the average nightowl taxi pilot, he fitted into its tortuous chicaneries as a snake fits into a new skin. Wealth came his way, and although he experienced several encounters with the law, he usually managed to wriggle through with a minimum of wounds. Two years after he set up as a bootlegger, Smith boasted in open court that during the previous twelve months he had paid more than $90,000 to officials of various grades and services in return for immunity granted a score of valuable liquor cargoes smuggled across the river. He is still around, but he has been in hotter water than usual of late, owing to his unfortunate habit when slightly exhilarated of punching people on the nose. He has been charged and convicted of assault more than once, and his star seems to be fading.
Consider also the merry festival of the Bootleggers’ Ball. For sheer bland impudence this occasion wins all medals with a couple of cum laude’s thrown in. Shortly after Leslie Spracklin departed, the coterie of rum runners, still without organization, but knit loosely by their community of crooked interests, decided that their new freedom from the meddlesome interference of enthusiastic and incorruptible snoopers merited a proper celebration. Therefore they organized the Bootleggers’ Ball. That was exactly what they called it, and tickets of admission so inscribed were freely sold in Detroit and through the Border Cities. The affair was a raucous, rowdy, success, held in a Windsor dance hall. Everybody got tight and toasts were proposed and enthusiastically honored to the bootleggers’ friends, the venal law and customs officials whose amiability—for cash—had made the big occasion possible.
When, as sometimes happened, the ordinary rum-running racket drifted into a period of relative quietness from sheer fat prosperity, the jovial hijackers could be depended upon to stir up a little excitement just to keep things lively. Hardly a week passed without at least one pitched battle along the waterfront as some bold gang of booze bandits besieged a dock where liquor was held, for the purpose of taking it away from its rightful owners and selling it across the river.
Amherstburg, most respectable and oldest of the Border Cities, lying on the western outskirts of the community, woke up with a start about this time to discover that in some weird fashion her historic environs had become headquarters for one of the most rabid and reckless bands of hijackers operating on the Detroit River. With the true delicacy which marks their modest tribe these young gentlemen elected to entitle themselves the “Blood and Guts” gang.
TO THE Blood and Guts gang is ascribed one of the most daring of the many acts of banditry recorded among the Border Cities during this frenzied period. Word came to their ears of a considerable cargo of liquor stored in a barn near the riverfront at Sandwich. It was the intention of the original owners to load this valuable consignment on a scow and ferry it across the river under cover of darkness. The hour of departure had been set for one in the morning, and the business of Continued on page 32
Continued from page 18
loading was to start around midnight.
The playful little lads of the Blood and Guts gang planned to ambush the loading party at the moment that the scow was ready for clearance, take them by surprise and rush the cargo. Afterward they would ferry it over themselves and dispose of it in their own market.
It looked simple, but in some mysterious manner—there were almost as many spies on the waterfront as there were bootleggers—word of the projected raid was carried to the owners of the shipment. Therefore, when the merry marauders from Amherstburg arrived on the scene of their proposed operations, they were considerably annoyed to be greeted by a welcoming committee which poured a fusilade of revolver fire into their ranks, from behind bulwarks of stacked cases of whisky which had been so loaded on the flat-bottomed scow as to reproduce on a miniature scale the sandbagged parapets of the Western Front so celebrated during the late unpleasantness in France.
To their credit it must be set down that the bold buccaneers did not in this emergency disgrace their gory title. Recovering swiftly from the first shock of surprise they charged the scow en masse, swarmed over the top of the barricade in the face of hostile fire, and routed the defending j* forces in a hand-to-hand struggle. By way of demonstrating their high spirits they trussed up one of the defeated warriors and dropped him overboard into the cold river, from which watery peril he was fished after a while by some of his friends dexterously manipulating a boathook. Once in command of the
situation the hijackers took the scow in tow and set sail for the land of Volstead, cheering lustily for their own prowess.
This lively engagement raged for half an hour or more and provided a spectacle for the citizenry of Sandwich and Windsor who crowded all available vantage points along the river bank and shouted more or less helpful advice to the combatants. It was rather like a Dominion Day celebration, but a lot more exciting because there was always the chance of being bored by a stray bullet from one of the score or so pistols which were constantly in action.
Enter the Gamblers
A FEW months of this sort of merri2*ment and the balance of public opinion began to shift again. With gun fights either between rum runners and customs officials or between rum runners and hijackers a regular feature of life in the Border Cities, and with wild shots penetrating the houses of innocent and peaceful residents—which happened more than once—some of the elder statesmen who had a prejudice in favor of being able to sleep nights began to murmur. On September 27, 1921, we find Alderman J. F. Mitchell, of Windsor, demanding an investigation of the police department, and charging, even as Leslie Spracklin had charged a year earlier, that the officials were in cahoots with the bootleggers. The indignant alderman mentioned names right out in public, but he did not get very far with his campaign. The racketeers went under cover for a week or so, the accused officials protested
virtuous innocence in aggrieved accents» several butchers and bakers and candlestick makers pointed out in a few terse words that business was good, and the profitable status quo was eventually maintained.
Business continued good, and the roadhouses and speakeasies continued to flourish. This went on all through the 4.4 farce and even brightened up when news of the new Liquor Control Act was spread abroad. By January, 1927, Windsor was on the crest of the wave. Ontario was, under proper restrictions, legally wet, and everybody would be a millionaire in short order. It won’t be long now.
Then the gamblers came in. There had been gambling, of course, after a fashion all along, but nothing like the whoopee with which the Big Guys, banished temporarily from Detroit and Chicago, invaded the Border Cities, and especially Riverside, during that hectic Spring and Summer of 1927.
This was the last straw. As has been told, led by the vigorous personality and trenchant pen of Editor Herman, Public Opinion in the Border Cities turned once more, this time against the racketeers. All the complaisancy which had marked the happy-go-lucky years since the Spracklin episode disappeared overnight, and in its place there arose a sternly righteous determination that the whole crew of gamblers, rum sellers, crooked or conniving officials and the rest of them, should be thrown out on their respective ears. It was done. To-day the Border Cities are as free from vice as any similar
community in Canada, and freer than many.
That Export Business
'"T'HERE remains to be dealt with that
phase of the booze business which concerns the export trade, in which many great fortunes have been made and upon which, it now appears, the ruthless gangsters of Detroit are training their deadliest weapons. Here the situation is different, more difficult. A bootlegger is a crook; but a liquor exporter, according to the law, is an honest gentleman entitled to its full protection. When the proprietor of a roadhouse mixes a highball for a cash customer he renders himself liable to severe penalties; but when a liquor exporter lays down a thousand cases of whisky on a Border Cities dock for export, cash in advance, he is a good business man. Not only must the law not molest him but, should occasion arise, officers of the law must guard his valuable property against his enemies.
It was not long after prohibition became at least technically effective in the United States that shrewd citizens of the border towns, observing this anomaly and recognizing the magnificent opportunity which lay in hiding behind it, decided to have nothing to do with illicit booze, but rather to concentrate on the far greater business of legal sales. Such men as Harry Low and James Cooper scorned to touch the bootleg business. They have built huge fortunes in entirely legal export transactions.
To-day, the Border Cities shore of the Detroit River is lined with export docks and branch breweries, established for no other purpose than to facilitate the shipment of alcoholic liquors to foreign countries. Boats of all sorts clear daily from the seven towns with sailing papers to Bermuda, to Mexico, to St. PierreMiquelon, and to a dozen other distant ports. It is no business of the exporter what his customer does with the goods once delivery is made. If, as has happened many times, a boat clears from La Salle ostensibly bound for Vera Cruz, on a Tuesday evening and is back at the same dock the following afternoon seeking a cargo for Bermuda, that is not the affair of the export company with which the boat’s owners are dealing.
But into a business so transparently honeycombed with trickery as this, some abuses are bound to creep, even though, superficially, every transaction appears to be according to law. The export liquor business has flourished in the Border Cities for nearly ten years now, and, in 1926 certain rumors of gross irregularities in connection with this traffic reached Ottawa. The Dominion Government appointed a Royal Commission to conduct an investigation.
An important and consequential body was this Royal Commission. Its president was the Hon. J. T. Brown, Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench of Saskatchewan. Other members were the Hon. Ernest Roy, justice of the Supreme Court of Quebec and the Hon. William Wright, justice of the Superior Court of Ontario. Eminent counsel represented the Crown, in the person of the Hon. Newton Wesley Rowell, K.C., of Toronto, a former federal minister, and R. L. Calder, K.C., of Montreal.
The Commission sat all summer long at various border points. An enormous volume of evidence was turned up indicating a sinister trail of chicanery and corruption running through the export liquor trade. Witnesses were missing, and books were destroyed. Evidence was given, showing that one W. M. Egan, formerly a special federal prosecutor and prominent in Border Cities politics, received large sums of money—$12,000 from one firm alone—to “keep the authorities off our necks.” Egan departed hastily some time before the investigation started. He was last heard of in Florida.
Beer and whisky the Commission discovered had been shipped by water and by rail through the Border Cities, dis-
guised variously as washing powder, as I sugar, as canned goods, as milk, as waste paper and under a dozen other aliases.
Robert J. Calderwood, a discharged Canadian Customs officer assigned to duty at the Windsor Ferry, told the Commission that men in the Customs service had collected from $20 to $80 weekly from American drivers of automobiles in return for telephone tips as to the intentions of Customs officials to search their cars. When they were so notified, liquor which they were carrying was quickly transferred until the way was clear once more. Bills of lading and customs seals were forged, the evidence showed, to permit safe shipments of illegal liquor into the United States. There was the story of the motor launch Killarney which cleared regularly from Border Cities docks for St. Pierre. The Killarney is a thirty-ton launch with a capacity of 180 cases of whisky. She could no more reach St. Pierre from Windsor than she could fly the Atlantic.
As for the riches tapped by the liquor export business as revealed to the Commission, they rival Golconda. The personal fortunes of such magnates as Harry Low and James Cooper were not subject to the probe, but one C. A. Savard, known to his intimates as “Frenehy,” admitted that his business amounted “roughly” to $5,000,000 annually. Savard had one of the biggest export docks at La Salle, and he was called in that vicinity “the liquor baron.”
Also there was Onesime Paquette, sometimes called “Pete,” whose accounts showed that he had on deposit in Ford City banks various sums totaling $2,500,000. Beside these figures, Get-RichQuick Wallingford was a piker.
Having finished its hearings the Royal Commission made certain recommendations, and following these the Dominion Government last year took action in various directions. One action was the series of suits against numerous brewing concerns for unpaid taxes; another in which the Ontario government took a hand was a tighter supervision of the fifteen miles of export docks along the Border Cities shore.
Two of the thirty-odd export docks were closed last summer, and others were checked up by an audit ordered by Sir Henry Drayton, chairman of the Ontario Liquor Commission. In August, Magistrate W. A. Smith, sitting in Windsor, handed down a decision which made the cargoes and the vessels, in the case of known rum runners bound for the United States, liable to seizure. He further ruled, backed by the Dominion Government, that stocks of liquor held in storage on export docks were illegally stored and liable to confiscation. These decisions will put a severe crimp in the business of shipping booze into dry America, if they are sustained.
Euler and Drayton Take a Hand
TOWARD the end of November a series of conferences were held at Ottawa between Sir Henry Drayton and the Hon. William D. Euler, Minister of National Revenue, out of which came action on the part of the Dominion government designed to lend aid and comfort to the harassed drys of the United States, and to bring confusion to the rum runners. The manner in which this was brought about is interesting as a demonstration of the devious ways by which governments must sometimes move in order to achieve a desired end.
Sir Henry took to Ottawa a complaint to the effect that the Ontario Government had reason to believe that vast quantities of beer and whisky were being “short circuited” through the Border ports, and through other lake-shore cities of the province. The term “short circuit” this connection means that liquor shipped through export companies, direct from distilleries or breweries for the purpose of export only, was being held in warehouses on export docks and distributed to bootleggers on the Canadian side, or loaded
from the docks and cleared, to be landed at other Canadian points.
Alcoholic refreshment so handled would not pay tribute to the Ontario government, and this was, naturally, a circumstance obnoxious to Sir Henry Drayton.
The Minister of National Revenue was properly sympathetic, and as a result of the several conferences, these new regulations were drafted and are now being enforced.
Export docks in the Border Cities are limited to ten, these ten to be designated by the Government. Those not on this select list to close down, and no other export docks to be opened save with the consent of the Ontario and Dominion governments, jointly.
Liquor exports to the United States to De supervised by Canadian customs officers, who will certify a genuine clearance from ports on this side, and observe that boats proceed to their stated destinations, after having paid the excise duty of $10 a gallon.
No licenses to be issued to distilleries or breweries by the Dominion govern-
ment without the consent of the Ontario government.
These are the net results of the agreement between the two governments, and it is very sure that they will operate to make the way of the United States bootlegger far more difficult than it has been heretofore.
Oddly enough, there are a number of well informed people at Ottawa and in the Border Cities, who believe that the principal objective in the DraytonEuler campaign was to give every assistance possible to the United States Prohibition Enforcement Bureau. These wiseacres laugh in their sleeve when “short circuiting” is mentioned. They point out, with some logic, that the short circuiting of beer and whisky into Ontario is essentially an unprofitable game not worth the candle, as long as the Ontario government is selling liquor at prices with which the bootlegger cannot compete. It is, in fact, their cynical notion that the cry of “short circuit” was raised as a convenient smoke-screen, behind which Sir Henry Drayton and the Hon. Mr. Euler were enabled to effec-
tively hamstring the naughty American booze butcher.
Interesting, if true, but essentially unimportant. The consequential thing is that these and other similar regulations have played hob with the liquor racket in the Border Cities. The rum-selling roadhouses have been shackled. The gamblers have been chivvied back across the river by the wrath of an outraged public opinion. The care-free, rowdy, buckety days are over.
Sagacious individuals among the liquor people realize this. The Messrs. James Burns, Marco Leon and Harry Low, for example, are now devoting much of their time to real estate operations on an impressive scale. The magnificent new Dominion Square building, under construction in Montreal, which will cover the entire block bounded by Peel Street, Dominion Square North, St. Catherine and Metcalfe Street is theirs
In Fear of What ?
'“THERE remains this one grave problem enunciated in the first of these articles. How are Canadians to defend themselves
against the ruthless raids of Detroit an~sters?
Someone, sooner or later, will have to find the answer to that question.
Jack Kennedy, a Canadian was taken for a ride, and murdered by Detroit gangsters.
Charlie Williams, a Canadian, paid $40,000 to Detroit gangsters because he wished to go on living.
Sam Low, a Canadian, was kidnapped and held for ransom by Detroit gangsters.
And finally, listen to this. The speaker is William C. Dunford, a Canadian, and a liquor exporter of Windsor. He is giving testimony in one of the series of Government actions against the breweries, in Toronto, last May. He has admitted that he has sold many cargoes of liquor to American bootleggers with headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio. He has been asked by the court to give the names of his customers. Here is his reply:
“My Lord, in the United States a man is marked if he is a squawker or a stool pigeon. I would sooner face a charge of contempt of court than be taken for a ride when I return to the United States.’1
How do you like that, Canadians?