Last Updated: 06/05/04
                        H.G. Turner
                        The Bootlegging Era

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  During prohibition it seemed as though everyone was in the bootlegging business -- including my dad and most of my uncles. My dad had two or three stills he used for making moonshine hidden in various places throughout the Southern Wisconsin area. He was always relocating the stills to keep them from falling into the hands of the revenue men. No one could be trusted with information regarding where moonshine stills were hidden, or when cook-offs were occurring. One had to be cautious and sneaky as revenue men seemed to be lurking everywhere. On many occasions, while a batch of liquor was being cooked off, I was put on look-out detail for possible intruders.

I vividly recall one event when my dad and uncle took my brother Donald and me along to an island on the Mississippi River where one of the moonshine stills was hidden. These were the days before locks were on the river. To get around the river undetected you had to know the cuts very well. On this particular afternoon my dad and uncle went to retrieve a batch of booze from the island to take back to the mainland. We had our fishing gear with us just incase we were stopped by the revenue men. My dad’s excuse would be, "just fishing with the boys."

When we arrived at the island, we circled it a couple of times checking to see if anyone might be around. As we made the rounds, my dad was cautious as usual, but today he was suspicious as things didn't appear quite right. My dad and uncle had placed markings to tip them off if someone had been on the island. When we finally pulled up to the island, Dad told my Uncle to keep the launch running and pointing away from shore. (A launch is what they called the motor craft in those days). Dad then crept into the jungle of trees and vines and disappeared.

We waited briefly when suddenly, low-and-behold, dad came sprinting from the trees, yelling at us as he approached our craft. Dad's hunch had been right! The revenue men had broken up the still and were on his ass. It turned out to be a darn good idea to have that launch ready to go.

The revenue men were hollering and shooting firearms as we high-tailed away from the island. I'm not sure if they were shooting in the air or at us. My brother Donnie and I were both laying in the bottom of the boat with our heads down to avoid getting shot.

The revenue men pursued us in a boat of their own, but my dad knew the cuts and back waters like the back of his hand. We gave the revenue men the slip, and we made it safely back to the mainland. It was a very exciting and dangerous day.

Unfortunately, it wasn't long after that day that dad was caught in one of my uncle’s stills. The revenue men tried to pressure dad to squeal on who owned the still. Dad however, wouldn't rat on whose still it was, so he took the rap alone. He was taken into custody and spent several months in prison. After he got out of prison he went back into bootlegging again.

With bootlegging, unfortunately, came his tendency to drink heavily. During those days it seemed as though the people making the booze, were also drinking as well. My dad was a wonderful person and everyone loved him, but he was addicted to the moonshine as were many others in those days. Beer


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