I Met a Bootlegger

By Morg Halley
August 2, 2012

Caveat: Most of this is hearsay, but, as a university-trained folklorist, I think it deserves to be preserved. If the Parks Service wishes to know the names of the actual people, I will provide them, but I don't believe thehy should be provided to the public without the permission of the living relatives. In the 1960s, when I was in my early twenties, I met a young sailor, whom I will call Roger, on the streets of Hollywood CA, where I was living at the time. We became quite good friends and, although there was no romantic attraction, developed a deep enough affection for each other that we called each other "brother" and "sister." Mhy parents and grandparents became very fond of this young man, as well, and he came to visit them when he was on leave, as often as he spent time with me. My mother and stepfather visited his grandmother, who had raised him, when they traveled to the East Coast, and later, after he was discharged and living with this grandmother, I stayed in their home on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border for about a week and then rented a room nearby for about six weeks longer, while I was in the process of moving to Maine in the spring of 1980. It was during this time that I heard the story. Roger called his grandmother "Mom," and so will I. She refused to let him keep even a few beers in her house and was vocal in her disapproval of alcohol. According to Roger, (and verified by Mom, when she was asked) her husband was one of the bootleggers who worked the Blue Blazes still that is preserved in Catoctin Mountain Park, before the shootout that is detailed in the literature about the still's history. She, herself, was one of their delivery drivers. On one occasion, she was at home, (I believe it was at a different locaation than the home I visited) with a load of illegal liquor on the premises, when she received a phone call notifying her that federal agents were on the way to raid her house. Mom thought for a minute about how to hide the "goods" and then went quickly to work. When the agents arrived at her home, they searched the premises extensively, leaving two of their number sitting on the couch with Mom and keeping her under close surveillance, as they considered her a criminal and a flight risk. They coud find nothing suspicious except the fact that her car's engine was warm, but that was not sufficient evidence for an arrest, so they reluctantly retreated. Once Mom was satisfied that the government men had gone, she heaved a sigh of relief, stood up, and removed the bottles of illicit hooch from their stash amid the springs of the couch. Then she reliaded the car and took them on to her drop point. Roger's grandfather was actually forewarned of the raid that actually stopped the still's business, and he conveyed the information to the rest of the crew, who, for some reason, declined to believe him, so he was safely at home when the shootout and killings occurred. Surviving relatives of the gunfight victims blamed him and his fortunes declined after that. He (and Mom) died dirt poor. She survived him for several decades and expired in an "old folks' home" at almost 90, in the late 1980s.

Related Parks

Catoctin Mountain Park

Filled with diverse species of native wildlife, Catoctin Mountain is also the site of the presidential retreat, Camp David.

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