Me in the Middle of Reading a Memoir (Prohibition)

Today is my Uncle Jack’s Birthday!

My Uncle Jack, who is my father’s youngest brother, came to visit me over the holidays (in spirit).  My oldest son shares the same birthday with him ~ January 22nd.  I received a gift in the mail from my brother that transported me back to Uncle Jack’s childhood in the early 1900s.  In 1979, in the years before he died, he had penned a memoir ~ I Too Remember ~ covering 1918 through 1928 when he was four years old through fourteen years old.  There might be more memories put to writing about other years of his life that his children and grandchildren may have.  We don’t know because we lost track of them over the years.  This particular manuscript was sent to my mother and father’s home, our homestead where we grew up and my father grew up, and covered a lot of memories of when my grandfather and grandmother moved into the newly built home when Uncle Jack was only seven years old.  His creative writing is very good and his memory is priceless.  



One account of life during his childhood was of the Prohibition Years (See Wikipedia).  The account was so well written that I decided to do a post about it here on my blog in his honor.  

RIP Uncle Jack and thank you for being the beautiful soul that you are! 

Happy Birthday!


I Too Remember

by John H. Quinn

Poor Dad!  From 1919 until 1933, we had what was called Prohibition.  All the Breweries had to shut down.  If someone happened to have some beer, and you bought it and got caught, you could have to pay $1,000 fine or 6 months in jail.  Soon the gangsters started making beer and whiskey even though it was illegal.  Soon the old saloons opened (illegally).  They were called Speakeasies.  As time went by, most of the time no one bothered them.  Dad didn’t like what they made and did without beer until we moved to our new home.  (I could write a book about the days during Prohibition, but I don’t feel that it is associated directly with my childhood.  If any of you would like to know about those days, I’m sure there are hundreds of books you can read).

After we got settled in our new home, Dad bought all the things that were needed to make beer.  It was called “Home Brew”.  Some of the things he bought, that I remember, were:

  1.  A thick earthenware pot.  It was called a crock.
  2.  Bottles and metal caps to put on top of the bottles.
  3.  Some kind of a gadget that you would put a bottle cap in, then put the filled bottle underneath, pull down the lever and it would put the cap on real tight.  You had to wait a few weeks before you could drink the beer.
  4.  Malt, hops and yeast.  He used water and that’s all I can remember.

Dad and Mother would also make Root Beer (for us kids) and would use the same gadget to put on the caps.

Later, he made Grape Wine and Whiskey.  I’ll tell you just a little about him making Whiskey.  Not about what he used to make it with, but about other things.

My Dad was mainly a beer drinker.  However, occasionally he would have a little whiskey.  He didn’t make the whiskey for that reason.  Here are a few reasons that I know of that he did:

Both of his brothers (Henry and Tom) enjoyed whiskey mixed with seltzer water ~ to be used for medicinal purposes:  My two grand-aunts used to make cough medicine and it worked.  Here is what they used when they made cough medicine:

Honey, lemon, whiskey and rock candy (the rock candy was crystallized sugar).

(See about Grandpa Malloy after I tell you what happened to my Uncle Henry one day.)

One day we were all in the kitchen and Dad had just brought up two bottles of whiskey that he had made.  When it is first made it is 200 Proof (very, very strong).  He first had to cut it (I’m not sure how he did this.) so that it would be around 100 Proof (OK for drinking) and he had to color it (brown, like you see in the stores).  He hadn’t started to do this yet when Uncle Henry came in.  He asked my Dad if he could try some of the whiskey.  Dad told him that he hadn’t cut it yet.  My uncle said that he didn’t care and poured himself a big drink.  He then walked over to the sink where he could get a glass of water to drink after he drank the whiskey.  Well, he drank all the Whiskey that he had in the glass and before he could reach the cold water faucet, he seemed to float down onto the floor where he passed out.  We were all scared!  Dad put cold, wet towels to his head and he came around.  He was OK.  He said to my Dad, “Wow, that sure packs dynamite!”  He always enjoyed Dad’s whiskey after that but he would wait for Dad to cut it.

While we were moving to our new home, my grandparents bought a tiny farm in Meadowbrook., New York, not far from Newburgh.  One winter my grandfather got awful sick.  My parents received word that they had better come up to the farm as Grandpa was very, very sick.  My parents went right up!  When they arrived, my grandmother told them that he had received the last rites of the church and there was very little hope that he would live.  My mother and father then went in to see Grandpa.  They only stayed a few minutes and as they were leaving, my grandfather called to my Dad.  My Dad went over … and Grandpa asked him if he brought any of the whiskey he made.  My Dad said that he didn’t.  My grandfather then asked him if he could bring some up … He felt that it was the kind of medicine that he needed to get well.  My father told him that he would go right back home and return as quickly as possible.  My Dad went right home, picked up a pint of his whiskey and headed back.  (It took awhile, as you might realize.)  He  brought it in to my grandfather who asked him to pour him a big shot.  He drank it right down.  He then told my Dad to leave the bottle on the table by his bed.  My parents told my grandmother they had to leave and asked her to let them know immediately if anything should happen.

A couple of days later my parents received word that my Grandpa was up and walking around.  (Come Spring, he was out in the fields working!)

The doctor said it was a miracle!  But … Grandpa (and my Dad) knew it was my Dad’s whiskey that saved him.  Believe it or not, it happened again, (over a number of years since that time) in the same way – Three Times!!

The Rise of Speakeasies



4 thoughts on “Me in the Middle of Reading a Memoir (Prohibition)

  1. It was certainly a different time wasn’t it Mary Lou? I don’t think there’d be too many of us handing out glasses of whiskey as cure-alls these days. Sometimes I think a little less alcohol floating around in society would be a good thing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember my mother-in-law telling me to rub whiskey on my babies gums when they were teething. She did and I didn’t. Public education about alcoholism has improved things a bit. Definitely a more reasonable response than prohibition. It was fun reading all about that time; of speakeasies, gangsters like Al Capone etc.


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