By JENNIFER K. BAUER
It’s legal on one side of the state line but not the other. Some people think it should be banned for the good of society, others think it’s none of the government’s business how they spend their free time. Law enforcement walks a line between aggressively pursuing law breakers or turning a blind eye.
It all happened a century ago during prohibition.
“Prohibition is something people are always fascinated by,” said Dulce Kersting, executive director of the Latah County Historical Society. “It’s a timely issue. When I started asking around, it seems like everyone has a story about prohibition passed down from their parents or grandparents.”
Tales from Latah County’s prohibition era will be featured Saturday, April 11 at a fundraiser for the society at the American Legion Log Cabin.
“Everything I’ve read about prohibition, examples can be found locally — the rise of cocktail culture, drinking at home — our oral histories support all of that,” said Kersting, who will present Saturday’s talk.
A popular story from the era centers around Sheriff George (Hap) Moody, who served for nearly 30 years in Latah County and was known as a character, Kersting said.
It was easy to hide a moonshine operation in the county’s northern forests, and loggers working there were often inclined to do so. Determined to catch them, Moody would disguise himself as a logger and head into the woods.
“Lawmen would break up a still and a week later it was operating again a few miles down the road. It was a constant cat-and-mouse game,” Kersting said.
Moody’s counterpoint was another county deputy, Pat Malone, famous for turning a blind eye to illegal activities, according to Kersting.
“He would let his buddies know, ‘We might be making a visit to your house tomorrow,’ or ‘Me and my men, we’ll be seeing you tomorrow,’ or ‘I don’t want to be looking in your backseat so don’t be speeding through town.’ I think there was a lot of complacency about enforcing (prohibition) in the county,” she said.
One reason for this was that Moscow went dry around 1906 to ’08, Kersting said. The state of Idaho didn’t enact prohibition until 1916, followed by the nation in 1920. With attitudes in flux, illicit activity was rife.
“Moscow had a very strong Women’s Christian Temperance Union,” Kersting said. “The farther you got out in the county, the more folks thought, ‘I don’t need to be told what I can and cannot drink.’ ”
The union remained very active well past prohibition, going on to spread information on the dangers of other substances, including LSD during the 1960s, Kersting said.
Admission to the talk is $10, and includes a free beer from the Moscow Brewing Co. A variety of beers will be for sale, along with food from Big John’s BBQ. Money raised at the event will help the society supplement free programing held throughout the year for adults and school children.
If you go
WHAT: “How to Catch a Moonshiner & Other Tales from Prohibition Era Latah County”
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 11. Doors open at 4.
WHERE: American Legion Log Cabin, 317 S. Howard St., Moscow
COST: $10 general public, $8 Latah County Historical Society members and students with valid ID
OF NOTE: One beer is included with the entry fee. More beer and food will be for sale.