So go put some cash in your mailbox Saturday night and--if you time-travel back to the 1920s and if you know the right people--Sunday morning you'll wake up to a nice bottle of moonshine.
Of course, it might not be real nice, Linda Betsinger McCann, author of "Prohibition in Eastern Iowa", told her audience of 30 at the Center Point Library community room on May 2. "It killed people. It blinded people," she said. In Iowa, moonshiners could be sentenced to involuntary manslaughter for bad booze.
Hygienic manufacture wasn't a big thing with all the clandestine cookers either. She heard of one place where they had the still in the pig pen because the cops wouldn't check there.
McCann's free talk about the local effects of the 18th Amendment (1920 through 1933) was sponsored by the Center Point Historical Society and Friends of the Center Point Library.
Even though Prohibition began a century ago, when McCann started interviewing people for the book, one man told her "There's family still alive; I don't think I should talk about it." Another one angrily asked who told her to talk to him and demanded she forget she'd ever heard of him.
"We had everything here anybody else did [in Iowa during Prohibition]-we just didn't make movies about it," she said.
Iowa farmers made moonshine on the side to feed their families and save their farms when commodity prices plummeted after WWI, she said. The Chicago mobsters were muscling into Iowa by about 1925.
"It got so if a car was riding low and had Illinois plates, the Iowa cops would stop it," McCann said.
In the discussion period at the end of the talk, Philip Andersen, Historical Society president, shared that he bought the first bottle of legal liquor privately sold in Iowa since Prohibition. (And he doesn't drink.)
Background: In 1934 at the end of Prohibition the State of Iowa became the sole legal seller of hard liquor in the state. You had to have a permit and a special booklet to buy at State liquor stores. When the State was thinking of putting fancy state stores in small towns, Jon Sholes who had just built The Corner Store convenience store in Center Point, squeaky-wheeled the Legislature opposing the idea. Which is why, he said in a phone interview, he thinks the Corner Store was chosen in the mid-1980s to be the first "Agency Store" in Iowa, where the State still owned the liquor but the privately-owned store would sell it on commission.
"We were the first and last," he said. The State completely privatized liquor sales shortly after that. But at the State ribbon-cutting at that first Agency Store, Andersen, as a representative of Center Point business people, bought that historic first bottle.