Do you have any rules in your house? Max, our grandson, has everybody remove their shoes when they enter the house. Several rules at our house are no wearing hats or caps and a shirt is required when eating at the table. Our boys, now adults, still adhere to those rules. I can imagine you have some rules at your home.
We belonged to several organizations and clubs, and they all have constitutions and rules. I served on the city council of West Okoboji for eight years, and we were always made aware of what we could and could not do to manage our city. Each state in the United States has a constitution and while similar; some are different in some aspects. We all live under one constitution for the United States, and we have a judicial branch of government to settle disputes about the law. The United States Constitution has been changed by amendments several times but only one was nullified.
In 1919, the 13th amendment was passed and it was the prohibition of “manufacturing, sale and transporting of intoxicating liquors” in the United States. That amendment stayed in force for 14 years and was repealed in 1933. The 14 years was called the Prohibition Era. It ushered in a whole new America because it was not that popular. No one disputes that the consumption of liquor can lead to many problems, but overall it is not a problem when consumed in a level-headed way.
The Prohibition Era introduced many new words into our vocabulary and it also introduced us to a variety of personalities that would not have been around if we had not had Prohibition. Some of the words are Bootlegger, near beer, bathtub gin, speakeasy, gangsters, Roaring Twenties, flappers, Carrie Nation, WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union), Drys, Wets, Vine-Glo, Volstead Act just to name a few. We had names of people associated with the era: Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, Dutch Schultz, Machine Gun Kelly, Al Capone and John Dillinger.
I was born in 1925 and personally have little recollections of Prohibition but do have a few. Our family were not drinkers but my father, uncle and Granddad LaFoy decided to make some beer. They assembled the necessary materials: mash, bottles, bottle caps and even a small machine to seal the bottles. Dad had about three dozen bottles stashed away in the basement. One day in the summer, we heard a loud bang, then another. The banging continued until we went to the basement to investigate, and the beer bottles had blown off their bottle caps and spread the beer all over the basement. I am not sure if dad drank any of the beer, but that was the only time they manufactured beer.
Another incident happened about the same time. My father, uncle, and Grandfather Holcomb were operating a butcher shop in Milford but they had a slaughterhouse west of town. My buddy and I accompanied dad to set out to explore the area while he was working on a hog. It was in the winter, so the snow was all over the ground. We went south of the slaughterhouse to the road that goes to the Catholic cemetery a bit west. The road dipped just past the intersection and underneath the dip in the road was a large culvert. The culvert was snowed shut, and we thought it would be fun to dig into that space, so we dug the snow and made an opening to that culvert. Low and behold it was full of one-gallon cans that were filled with liquid. There were more than 50 or so one-gallon cans stacked neatly in the culvert. We were not very big but managed to lug two cans back to dad. He looked at the cans, unscrewed the cap, took a smell, and asked us where we got the cans. We told him and he accompanied us back to the culvert, looked, and extracted two for himself. I don’t know what happened after that, whether dad called the sheriff or what, but he told us to not say a word to anyone. Thinking back I am sure some bootlegger was very unhappy.
I researched the local newspapers for information and found some results. I have left the names out of the articles.
A Spirit Lake Beacon entry from 1929 said a man was "from Milford and is spending another 30 days in the county jail for infraction of the liquor law. He completed a 30-day term imposed on him by the mayor of Milford about a month ago.”
Another headline from that year said 80 gallons of liquor were stolen — "County cache in courthouse basement lost over half its contents." Another from 1923 said 13 liquor cases were heard in court — three entered guilty pleas and were fined while 10 others were dismissed.
I read about a case years ago, and it involved a lady from Estherville who was illegally selling liquor near the Okoboji Bridge. The sheriff observed her selling bottles of liquor and he approached her, but she denied it. After a discussion with her, she finally admitted selling and extracted several full bottles of liquor stashed in her bloomers.
The Prohibition Era in the United States is interesting. Although it was illegal to sell liquor, the bootleggers were not considered criminals as many engaged in unlawful activities in The Depression years to support their families. Many of you can still remember Iowa Liquor Stores, and the hassle it was to buy liquor. Liquor by the drink is another topic and many of you recall that Minnesota was way ahead of us Iowans. Knowing this area, I am sure if one wanted a drink it could be obtained.