Mondays with Melitas – February 27, 2012

PROHIBITION DAYS                                          FEBRUARY 27, 2012


          I was 2 years old when Prohibition went into effect,  and 15 years old when it was repealed in 1933.  It was the 18th Amendment t0 our Constitution, and the idea for it was to stop our citizens from drinking alcohol, or so our Congress thought. I probably didn’t understand or worry about it too much because it didn’t stop people from having booze around, and several in my family — one aunt  (not Aunt Mae,) a couple of uncles — were alcoholics, and wherever we went to visit friends and relatives there were cocktails to be served.

          Now my Uncle Titán had a way about him and knew a lot of people, so when it was mentioned that we would be taking a drive over to Cucamonga I knew what that meant.  We were going over to visit the Galliano family for the day.  This family had acres and acres of grape vines which come in handy if you like to make wine and brandy, so that’s exactly what went on there — a lot of stomping on the grapes. They had some kids, but I don’t know if they helped in this integral part of making the wine.  Even if I was only 7 or 8 years old, I knew we would be travelling home with gallon jugs of wine and several gallons of the brandy they made.  They would store them in the trunk of the car.  Early on, the trunk sat on the rear of the car separately, and it looked like a trunk.  It was a great trip to take because Viv and I had so much fun playing with the kids there, and then there would be a lot of Italian food served, not to mention the brandy and wine that was flowing freely, before we left for home.  Titán was very smart to have such a nice bootlegger for a friend.

          Titán especially favored the brandy.  He kept the jugs in the 4-car garage padlocked in an old ship’s chest, a leftover from my great grandfather, Don Juan Forster’s sea captain days.  In fact, I ended up with one of those chests and then ended up donating it— empty — to the Bower’s Museum inSanta Ana.  Titán’s cronies would show up frequently, and he entertained them in the garage where the libations would be served.  I will never forget one time when he had gone down the hill to God knows where, and Aunt Mae and I were going out, and she spotted the open padlock on the ship’s chest. With that, she grabbed  those jugs and emptied them into the drain outside the garage without batting an eye, and giving her much satisfaction — she didn’t like him to carry on with his social life in the garage where the brandy was.  Titán never said one word about his missing brandy, and I don’t know where his Plan B was, to replace it in the event this “seizure” might take place.

          Back home in Fullerton, my oldest sister Beth — she was 17 years older than I — had a great idea:  she was going to start making some beer in a big crock down in the cellar, she would have to keep watch over it during the fermentation, and then when it was ready to be bottled, she would give me the job of capping the bottles. That was a fun job.  Other times, she would wave her magic wand and pour various liquids into the bathtub, and Voile! she would have some “bathtub gin.”  I never knew what her recipe was.  She had to come over to our house to do her fermenting because she was now married, and her house was quite close to her in-laws.  If they got wind of all this scene taking place, they would most surely call the cops and have her thrown in jail.  You could say they were very anti-booze.

          Another thing, when we took our Sunday drives to Tijuanafor the horse races, or the bull fights; or to Montecito for the Polo games, there was this expensive, gorgeous tan leather case that went along, especially if we had a picnic lunch.  The case had 2 crystal bottles — for the liquor — a silver shaker to shake up a Martini or Manhattan, a long, silver bar spoon, and the “glasses” were silver metal that collapsed to save on space.  Now, just think of the irony here.  This liquor case was a gift from Aunt Mae to Titán!  She hated it when he was borracho. However, it was a handsome case to be traveling around with.

          My Mom and Dad were not “drinkers.”  I never saw my Dad loaded, and 2 of his brothers were alcoholics. Years later, we celebrated Mom’s 85th at my home inLaguna Beach, and we got her a little buzzed.  My older sisters, Beth and Sis, and brother Buddy would tell this story which took place in our   home up at the end of Raymond  in an orange grove inFullerton.  (I was born in that home and lived there for 6 months, then we moved real close to town across the street from the high school.)  Mom was trying to get dinner ready, but Dad was late, and she kept stewing that it was getting later, and later, and he wasn’t home yet,  and the kids were hungry, and so on. He finally showed up, came in the back door into the kitchen with this inane look on his face, and when Mom saw that he was three sheets to the wind, she took dead aim with the egg she had in her hand, and threw it at him — it landed right in the middle of his forehead, and went oozing  down over his face. To see the stunned look on his face must have been priceless.  Mom and those 3 kids never forgot this scene.

          Congress overturned their 18th Amendment, and I would bet it had finally dawned on them that maybe it was a lousy law when it spawned all those bootleggers, gangsters, and the like. 

          It took only 13 years for those representatives (HA!) of the American people to figure that one out.  All I wish they would do is get rid of  the “Notch Baby” section of Social Security — but they never will because they are waiting for us to die.

          If you are not aware of this Notch Baby thing, please go to Google, or some place, and read up on it.  I would tell you all about it, except this would go on for another 6 pages.  At least!




6 Comments to “Mondays with Melitas – February 27, 2012”

  1. Melitas – What a hoot!Sounded like prohibition wasn’t that bad for your family! A great story!


  2. I remember my parents with a still they made and they used fruit to make the whiskey. They had it at the kitchen table when my aunt and uncle would come over to play cards. They put a glass un the dipping
    wiskey and when they had a shot the “next up” would get the shot.
    It was a slow proccess but they did manage to get a little high.

    Love Mondays!!!!!!

  3. Wow, what an exciting life you lead, Melitas. The closest i came to this was making rootbeer every year, so I related when you talked about putting on the cap and waiting for it to ferment. I thought it was months but my sister said it was about a week. If my parents hadn’t been able to buy the booze, they would have been joining your family, as it was certainly part of our family tradition to sit around and play cards, sing and drink. I got the singing and playing, but I’ve always enjoyed food more than alcohol.

    You are such a good writer. I was right there with you.

  4. That was a hoot and a hollar!!. When my twin sister and I were in college we got the bright idea to make “Pumpkin liquor”. You hollowed out the seeds and then filled it with sugar and alcohol to get it started. Only thing was once you put the lid back on you were NOT to even peek for 30 days. Well, that was way too long and I know everyone in our dorm took a look when no one was around. We ended up with one damn rotten pumkin!!

  5. Dear Mena,

    I loved your story. I have made many kinds of wine. Up here in Maine we are limited for ingrdients; but I found them. I have a lot of dandelion wine in the basement; and have also made tomato wine. You do what you have to.:) Prohibition didn’t work.


  6. Great Story!!! What a life you had. … Love you … Esther

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