Written by Dianne Phillips
posted on July 13, 2013 07:23
When something is prohibited, we want it more. When something is prohibited, some will find a way. ..
Prohibition came into being with the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution enacted as law in 1920. It outlawed the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages as well as prohibiting the import and export of these beverages.
On 17 January 1920 the US Congress passed the Volstead Act. This law burdened the Coast Guard with combating rum-runners. For 14 years the Coast Guard tried to stop illicit liquor from reaching the shores of the United States. One of the largest factors in favour of smuggling activities was that the United States prohibited the manufacture of beverage alcohols and Ontario did not.
Tales of daring and adventuresome river folk quietly rowing from Rockport to Alexandria Bay in the darkness of night with a “ham” (a burlap bag used to smuggle alcohol) of whiskey are almost gone. For various reasons, rum- running stories were kept as quiet as the dipping of the paddle into the still waters of the moonlit St. Lawrence River. Rum-running in the Rockport area was advantageous to some because of its close proximity to the American shores and also because of the many islands and small channels that offered protective hideaways from revenue agents.
Various creative methods were used to transport the alcohol from the shores of Rockport across to American soil. “Hams” were sometimes fixed securely underneath the boats so if stopped they could feign innocence. Some boats were painted one colour on one side for the voyage over to the U.S. with the contraband and a different colour on the other side for the return trip. Captain’s hearing was honed to know exactly when to cut the engines so as not to be heard. Careful planning and an expert knowledge of the river were definite assets to ensuring a successful mission. An unsuccessful mission was unthinkable. There was a lot at stake.
This August 17, 2013 as part of the “Rockport Prohibition Days” those looking for an adventure are invited to participate in a “Rum-Runner’s Challenge” taking place at Ed Huck Marine. It will be rumrunners versus federal revenue agents. Participants acting as rum-runners will be given a “ham” (burlap with contents simulating “bootleg liquor”) and some details on shoals, islands, etc that they must “see” on their exploit which will be verified through collected proof. Bootleggers may take any course they wish as their challenge will be to not get stopped by a federal agent and thus lose their “ham” but instead to return to Ed Huck Marine still in possession of the original contraband. Any type of boat is considered worthy to accept the challenge and any safe number of people may be in the boat enjoying the adventure. Great prizes will be awarded to the first three successful teams. This is not a race.
Although not necessary to don clothing of the times, prizes will be given for best period attire.
No registration is necessary. Participants need to be at Ed Huck Marine, Rockport by 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 17, 2013 to receive the “Rum-Runner’s Challenge” instructions.
Prohibition Days in Rockport, Ontario
August 16, 17 and 18, put on your flapper dress or gangster suit and come to Rockport to experience Rockport life in the 1920’s.
Activities for the weekend include:
- a 1920’s fashion show on the dock,
- a speakeasy on Cornwall’s Point,
- a street dance with a seven piece band dressed in period clothes,
- a rum runners’ challenge,
- an antique boat show,
- a Hal McCarney 5 km race and a one km Moose McCarney race for children,
- an antique car show along the parkway,
- an old fashioned family picnic
- and much, much more.
Check out www.rockportthousandislands.com for a list of planned events and ways for everyone to become involved. This will be THEE summer event of 2013. You won’t want to miss it!!!
By Dianne Phillips
Diane Phillips was born and raised in the Thousand Islands. She is a retired elementary school educator and now spends much of her time volunteering in the village of Rockport. She is Chair of the Rockport Development Group (RDG) and works with volunteers and local businesses who take on projects aimed at reconnecting with the past, revitalizing the present, and building for the future. Being on the Rockport Prohibition Days planning committee has allowed her to discover the (secret) lives of some famous river rats.