By Evan Blackburn.
This is a story of bootlegging at Blake Island during the Prohibition Era. It’s told by Dex Everett who was my next door neighbor in South Colby. He says when he was a boy out here at Blake Island, the boats used to come in from Canada bringing their liquor. They’d park them out by Blake Island and take the booze ashore, and they had a guard there that looked after it. He said one way they’d do it, they’d bring in a load and they’d take a long rope and an anchor and every so often they’d tie a case of booze onto this rope as they let it down. And then they’d make a little bit of a float on the end of the rope so they could tell where it was.
They’d watch it with field glasses. Then at night they’d either swim out there or they’d take a row boat and row over there, locate it, haul up the rope, and take off a case of whiskey and haul it back. I guess there was a lot of stuff come in from Canada that way.
I went up to Canada on a service trip while I was working for Instrument Laboratories. I was to calibrate some turbidity instruments that they’d brought in from Germany to Canada for the breweries up there. My job was to activate these units because everything in Germany is 220 volts and up in Canada, it’s 110. So I had to make modifications on the instruments. This was up at Lethbridge, Canada. And I did that job and then they flew me over to Regina in Canada to do the same thing for another turbidity machine that they’d brought in from Germany. While I was there, I asked the fellow, “Well, where do you sell most of your product?” They were making beer and most of it goes into the United States. I said, “Well, during the prohibition days, where did you sell it?” “The same place,” he said. “We sold it in the United States. In fact,” he says, “we had a larger business during the prohibition days than we do now.”
I says, “Well, how did you get it in there?”
“Well,” he says, “They paid off the inspectors and they shipped it in by the carloads as wheat. They’d put it in the car and seal it as wheat and ship it right into the United States .”
Editor’s Note. This oral history story was dictated by Evan Blackburn and passed on to us by his daughter Virginia Blackburn Burgess. The Blackburn family lived in South Colby in the 40’s and 50’s. Also see this article about the Bootleggers of Blake Island: