By Linda C Butler
Told by Charlie Vance
I opened a general store in 1946 at Herb Lake MB and I hired Emory, a carpenter, to do repairs and upgrades to the building I had purchased. I was surprised when a customer told me that the carpenter was also a bootlegger, but he was a pleasant fellow and I continued our association.
That fall, Emory asked me if I would order grapes for him so he could make wine. I agreed, but as he did not want his neighbors observing him receiving a quantity of grape baskets, he picked them up at night. Homes were small in those days and he had no room at his house to make wine, but he had arranged to use the home of a trapper who had left town for the winter. He put his large wooden vat in the front parlor of this house and processed the grapes. There was a wood stove in the home and he anticipated lighting a fire at night to keep the temperature warm.
A few days later, Emory came into the store and when there were no customers he told me that his wine was ruined. We had an unexpected cold snap one night and he had not realized that the temperature had dipped so low, so he had not gone to the trapper’s house in time to light the fire. The wine had chilled and he said that it was ruined and he would be throwing it out. I told him that I could use the grape juice, and it didn’t matter to me if there was no alcohol content. He gladly gave me the juice and helped bottle it into jugs and we moved it in our cellar where it would be cool.
A couple days before Christmas, I set up a table in the center of our general store and made a punch with the grape juice. Naomi (Jane) baked cookies and we served homemade cookies and the non-alcoholic punch to our customers.
It was our first Christmas in this new community and only the second Christmas after the Second World War ended. People had little money and they appreciated the hospitality that we extended. No one knew that the local bootlegger had contributed the grape juice because his wine had failed, but his generosity created a memorable Christmas season.
(c)2013 Linda C Butler