Bootleggers gone but not forgotten

Most of them are long gone now, but bootleggers abounded here during the ’30s and ’40s and could be found almost every four or five doors all the way up from the river to the railroad and beyond.
Within a block or so of the old LCBO store, at the corner of Church and Mowat, and the same area’s several hotels (conveniently close also to the papermill gates), the sale of after-hours booze and beer flourished as the bootleg operations carried on more or less like private clubs!
This topic came up when some middle-aged guys were reminiscing over coffee—and recalling that the old patrons sometimes included police (and maybe not off-duty!)
One of the more genial hosts you could meet would offer the first drink free along with an invitation to play cards, which gave him an extra income. I remember his reputation as a gambler who seldom lost a game—or a dollar!
As the drinking progressed, maybe the wife of the establishment would make a meal and this could prolong the party quite nicely.
All in all, this became a sociable evening that was well-remembered when the next opportunity came along.
While you might expect the nearby legal vendors would show considerable annoyance concerning this competition, there seemed to be a truce in place. The bootlegger might sometimes have to turn to a regular bartender to sneak out some supplies to him, but everything was definitely hush-hush!
The proprietors are no longer with us, but their names linger on in a friendly way. Because, if their customers needed a loan to help them along, they knew who to turn to. After all, this was definitely a friendly business.
For instance, an East End woman continued for years to keep a healthy stock of bottles on hand for her friends from the logging camps when they came to town, and others were equally thoughtful in their hospitality.
Our beloved bootleggers, illegal as they were, enjoyed popularity that knew no bounds. Our older residents here still can rhyme off their names by the dozens!
Legal drinking was a popular pastime in both border towns and whenever the regular bars closed, the after-hour drinking would begin. Over coffee here yet, the memories come out as well as names of the busier operators.
You rarely heard of any more serious crimes being committed in connection with bootlegging. You might wonder how legitimate taverns could manage to compete, but then their open hours were different.
Besides omitting taxes and wages, the bootlegger was free to run on his own terms. And oh yes, the beer bottles and glasses were larger in those years, when our underground liquor trade flourished.
As you undoubtedly surmised by now, none of the foregoing binging was related to Al Capone or Las Vegas, although Big Al appeared at Nestor Falls from time to time and no doubt learned we did not need his help here.
• • •
Visitor Ted Avis, son of Brian Avis and a member of one of our better known families, is the nephew of our former garagemen, Syd and Allan Avis, the latter being a former local mayor.
• • •
Pete Borger of Barwick, who is among numerous Hollanders who settled on farms in this district after the Second World War, reports that dikes in his home country were built differently than in New Orleans—and probably not so likely to spring unmanageable leaks.
The Dutch dike usually is two or three parallel walls with canals between them that catch the water, which then is pumped out by windmills alongside.
Others say the Dutch dike is more than merely mud, sometimes having tree branches and whole trees involved in building the banks, as I understood from Bill Seiders.
But hurricanes are not experienced in Holland. At least not like Katrina!
• • •
Canadian cattlemen are happy to hear U.S. President George Bush, who pretends to have all the right answers, “catching tarpaper” (to use an old phrase that certainly fits here) over his ignorant stance on the catastrophe in New Orleans.
George earlier had alienated his neighbours across Canada with his refusal to continue buying our beef cattle! Now it turns out ours were no worse affected by mad cow disease than his own beef turned out to be.
But did he come back to us then with any peace-making gesture?
So now he has opened himself up to serious doubts on his brain-power with his inept handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. As we suspected earlier, he has proven exactly wrong to lead the western world.
• • •
But let George go his own way. Canadian cattlement can continue enjoying the old cowboy songs and proving they know what they’re doing.
“One hand on the saddle and the other on the horn, I’m the best darn cowboy ever was born! Up in the morning before daylight, Before I sleep the moon shines bright!” (The Chisholm Trail).
• • •
Leave it to our high schoolers to provide excitement and fresh topics of conversation when all else fails.
Police and ambulance were summoned to Fort High last Wednesday morning when pepper spray was used in a hallway, with several students having to be taken to hospital for treatment.
Incidents of that nature were unknown to us during our former high school days, but so was the bare belly look so popular among the girls wearing those tight faded jeans today.
For the latter style, our old teachers would be clearing out classrooms and interviewing parents—and imposing discipline such as is apparently unheard of today.
But I was pleased when a native student from out of town inquired of me politely whether I ever lived at Mine Centre, and wondered if I maybe was a Bliss. I had to give her a “yes” or “no,” before learning she was from Seine River, where I once lived as a mere toddler, my father being a dam builder while we lived at Crilley.
Native youngsters, I’ve learned, are much less shy than formerly—and good for them! They join the rest of our young scholars at noon-time in McDonald’s, where all of us can become better educated.
• • •
Everyone wonders whether that sorry, dangerous West End highway contract will take all winter! Surely there are other contractors available who would see our busiest highway becomes a completed right of way—and before the snow starts.
Taxpayers are becoming very impatient.
• • •
But while most road are still fit to travel, take cheer. Gas prices—the topic of all that foreboding—seem to be taking a tumble after all. That $4 or $5 prediction per gallon was becoming too painful to contemplate.

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