New York, Smuggling Liquor

Speaker is from Brooklyn, NY; she is a 70-year-old white woman with a college education.


[INF:] Oh-oh, goin’ to Cuba. I went to Cuba in prohibition time, too. And, uh, I bought a lot of fancy bottles, little like one drink in, for souvenirs for all of my friends. Well, Atlantic City the ship was stopped. It was all in the newspapers about it, too. The crew had, uh, ripped the walls and put all liquor in the walls. So we all had to get up, three o’clock in the morning, and, oh, it was a scream. The men were comin’ down their pajamas an’ bathrobes, and they had bottles stickin’ all out all over. And anyone could see they had the bottles. And, uh, oh, the captain says, “Get rid of that stuff. They’re searchin’ the boats. They’re down stairs rippin’ the wall apart.” So, uh, they looked us all over and uh, for liquor and, uh, bringin’ things in from Cuba, and the girl in front of me, she had a bottle she was bringin’ in for her mother-in-law. And they found that bottle in her bag, so they fined her fifty dollars and threw it over the side of the boat. So then, I got panicky. I had about six little bottles, and I thought, “I’ll have to stay on boat and wash the dishes.” I spent all my money down there, was comin’ home broke. So the doctors are not allowed to touch the women. They send you down to the matron. So when he went to examine me, he said, “You’re a very sick woman. You better go down to the matron.” See, I was so nervous and upset that my pulse was goin’ so fast, and I couldn’t talk. And I was holdin’ my coat around my stomach, see, so they wouldn’t, and I guess he thought I was pregnant, see, because the bottles all started to move to the front. So he says, “Oh you look like a sick woman. You better get down to the matron.” And all I kept thinkin’ about was “Oh, if they ever find those bottles, I’ll have to stay on ship a month to pay up for it, if they fine you fifty dollars a bottle.” I think I had eight and I was broke because I was down there a month, and I spent my money.

[FW:] What happened?

[INF:] And, uh, she didn’t examine me. She said, uh, “What’s the matter?” “Oh,” I said, “Oh, I’m so nervous. Those doctors, they’re foolin’ around.” And I said, ” My friend in front they threw the bottle overboard and I got all nervous and upset. And she says, “Well, uh, I’ll give you a pill and you calm down.” So then, she did. But I would never bring liquor in again after that. I wouldn’t go through that again, for no souvenirs.