There are so many stories that have been lost in time, and more that are likely to be. During the week I had the incredible privilege of meeting a Blaine lifer and hearing his stories. He’s 77 years old, and as he said, most of his close friends aren’t here anymore. I’ve seen him around a bit and would never have thought he was 77. We got talking. Well, he was talking. I was captivated.
I haven’t verified his stories, and I don’t want to. These are his family lore. It probably doesn’t even matter how true they are or if some came from a family exaggeration. They are still our history. He told me a few more, but I loved the tales of smuggling alcohol into the United States.
The first story he told me was of his grandfather, the booze runner. His grandfather would take his boat out off the coast and meet with a boat from Canada. They’ll load his boat with bottles, and he’d hightail it back to the US. Sometimes the police saw him, and there’d be chase back to land. I was told of mason jars of cash hidden at the back of cupboards. There was too much to spend without creating suspicion. The quote from the introduction was the end of this. Once the police got guns and started shooting, his grandfather quit. He got to land near Anacortes and abandoned the boat. My friend said he used to walk by an abandoned boat many years later. He had heard the story of the escape, but it took his mother to tell him that boat was boat.
I am so impressed by the other boating story. He told me about the local man who made his living with crab pots. Each day he’d row, yes row, out to place the pots. Then he’d row back out to collect the now crab-filled pots. It was hard work, but that was his living. All the township knew. What they didn’t know is that the crabs were hiding bottles of liquor. Another boat would come south, place alcohol in the pots. The crabs would cover the bottles, and no one was the wiser. I’m sure the volumes weren’t high, and there was a lot of physical effort. He said the authorities had no clue, but I wonder if they just chose to ignore it.
Then there was the horse. I mentioned this to a younger Blaine local who has verified the method, but not the alcohol (she inferred something more illicit). She also confirmed the border is now fenced. So the story was that the horse was ridden across the border, ladened with liquor, and left untethered. When it got hungry, it would wander home. No one thought to stop a lone horse. Alcohol delivery to their door.
The final story was another hard-working citizen with direct goods transport from Vancouver, BC down to San Francisco, on what else, but the train. Everyone was so proud of him for putting in his eight-hours, so no one guessed there was more than dresses and grain in the cargo.
Note: There was no intention to record these stories, so my memory may be a little out. I’ve gone vague when I can’t recall exactly which family member did what. I also assumed these happened during Prohibition, but his age and mentions of not noticing things as a child, and the date of Prohibition don’t match. I blame myself for these inconsistencies.
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One thought on “Tales of Smuggling Alcohol into the United States”
Wonderful stories. I’m glad you captured them, J. L. Oakley wrote an historical fiction novel placed around Blaine in the time period just before the border was settled. You may enjoy reading it, “Mist-Chi-Mas”. http://www.reddspace.com/book-reviews/mist-chi-mas-by-janet-oakley/