Friday, March 7, 2014

The Youngest Bootlegger

Wine was an essential part of my Italian American upbringing. My grandfather grew his own grapes and pressed his own wine for many years which included the period of 'Prohibition' in the 1920's and early 1930's. I even helped with the pressing in the 1950's when I was young.

My grandfather would produce his wine in the basement of his Brooklyn home and then send it out to a coffee shop owned by a relative. The wine was served in coffee cups.

This allowed him to have wine of his own and make a few dollars extra during 'The Depression'. It was a win/win proposition until they got caught.

The wine bottles were loaded into the bottom of my fathers baby stroller, covered with a soft mat and dad was laid on top. In this way my grandmother would make the deliveries to the coffee shop.

One day a police officer stopped my grandmother to admire the baby and she was caught, arrested and jailed. My father was put into the cell with her while they waited for my grandfather to arrive to get them out.

I remember steam coming from my grandmothers ears anytime this adventure was mentioned. My grandfather with a smile would say, "she never looked more beautiful holding the baby behind bars".

That is how my dad became the 'youngest bootlegger'. A name that stuck with him all his life.


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