Monday February 11, 2013

Editor’s note: Mr. Patrick, who has lived for more than 100 years, has written a series of letters about his memories throughout the years. We will run them periodically.

I remember when ...

A hundred years ago, bootlegging was attempting to evade the law. Of course I don’t remember quite that long ago but I do know that the Volstead Act was passed by congress in 1919. This law, sponsored by Andrew J. Volstead, made it illegal to make or sell alcohol for drinking without a license. What prompted this law was that some southern states had people making an alcoholic drink called "moonshine."

Moonshine was made from fermented corn kernels by a process of distilling which was boiling the corn and condensing the steam or vapor in a cooling chamber. The resulting liquid was alcohol separated from the water. The dis- tilling apparatus was set up in a field or in the woods since the operation was against the law. And to avoid detection, much of the work was done at night so that the smoke from the fire would not be seen. Hence the word "moonshine" or whiskey made at night. In order for this liquor to be sold in many states, especially in the East, without raising suspicion by the police, it was bottled and hidden in the high boot shoes worn by the salesman. And thus the word "bootlegging."

As you know, today marijuana is illegally transported and sold, but not in boots. It is hidden in some of the most unlikely places in a car or in just about every opening in the human body.

Incidentally, when I started work in a hardware store the Monday after I graduated from high school, a man came in to the store who often and bought a gallon of alcohol used in mixing paint. Police warned us not to sell him any more because he was passing it through a loaf of bread to remove the poison and drinking it.