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Sunday, July 6, 2008


Memories of Dubuque-area bootleggers and the warfare over Prohibition are rekindled on the 75th anniversary of the death of the 18th Amendment


"..."Dubuque was known as 'Hoochland' in the rest of the state (fyi Iowa). The dry inland Republicans were always hollering about the bootleggers around Dubuque because it was such a Democratic town," said Carl Breson, formerly of Dubuque, who as a teenager helped his great-grandfather, Louis Smith, with his bootlegging operation..."

"...Chicago mobster Al Capone set up the Bon-Bon Inn south of East Dubuque, Ill. The establishment became a wildly popular watering hole..."

"..."Everybody was a bootlegger; those without jobs made it and sold it, and those with jobs bought it."

Carl Breson remembers the pervasiveness of illegal alcohol in and around Dubuque during Prohibition."

"..."They would find a little clearing on a remote island, not so big that it could be seen from the (Mississippi) river, to set up their still. First they charred a barrel by burning rubbing alcohol in it," Breson said. The char of a barrel imparts color and flavor to the alcohol fermenting in it.

"...The first liquor out of the still was called 'white mule' or 'white lightning,' and it was poisonous. Some people drank it and they went blind."

"...I never saw rich people who didn't have all the whiskey they wanted," Breson said."

"..."I saw Eliot Ness once. He was with a whole bunch of guys who drove over the bridge and said they were hunting for stills," said Breson of the famed Chicago Prohibition agent. "You couldn't bribe the 'Prohi-men,' but you could work with the state men," Breson said, "

"..."We were poorer after Prohibition," he said."

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