Moonshine Reflections from Times Gone By……and my Dad, at 7, Bootlegging!

Croatian Grandparents, Papa and Mama, mid-life

Papa and Mama were my Croatian grandparents who came to the U.S. to escape dictatorship. Papa became an insurance agent as well as a wine maker, not to mention hand building a house. It took eleven years to get established financially before he could send for Mama, who remained in Croatia, waiting to come to the U.S. and get married to her betrothed.

I can still remember the overwhelming smell of wine in those barrels in his cellar through the hatch door in the floor leading downstairs. It may be the reason I cannot tolerate wine.

When Dad was 7 years old, he learned to drive Papa’s car. Dad drove it over the
Kansas/Missouri line to sell Papa’s wine. There were no laws stopping him from driving….and who would ever suspect a 7 yr. old bootlegger in prohibition days?

Evidently, Dad was paid for his bootlegging and began buying cigarettes from someone in the alleyways at the age of 7. In today’s world, it is hard to imagine all of this.

Neighbors would frequent the enclosed back porch near the alley at Papa and Mama’s house on Strawberry Hill, the Croatian settlement in Kansas City. I was always happy to see them for good reason. They would sit down at the little white painted table near the window and drink Papa’s wine. In my young mind I thought it was so nice of them to leave money on the table which always included a quarter that would be given to me. At that time I had no clue they were buying a glass or two of wine. My interpretation was they liked to visit with Papa and liked me so they’d leave a quarter.

Mama was nowhere to be seen on the back porch. I never learned why she didn’t visit with the neighbors until I was a teenager. I offered one day to take her to visit a lady she knew from Church (Mama never learned to drive). She responded immediately letting me know she did not want to go visit because that lady just wanted to gossip. She had no place for gossip in her life. I do recall people being discussed on the back porch so I finally understood why she was not a part of the ‘back porch bar scene.’

Of course, I comprehended much more about bootlegging and what Papa was doing on his back porch once I grew older. It is enjoyable to occasionally reflect on parts of my past that are miles away from my life today. However, I do see that the pioneer spirit manifests in many different ways. Papa, Mama, Dad and his siblings were pioneers in a new land quite different than life in the ‘old country’ as they referred to it. The common denominator in both old and new countries with the ability to make the switch was the determination to create a good life with hard work.

There is a pioneering thread that runs through my veins with my children’s work. A pioneer is a pioneer, regardless of circumstances. It takes courage to overcome fear of the unknown. In this 68th year I hope to discover more of these threads from my ancestors to add to the awareness of who I am in this Awesome Aging opportunity called ‘life.’ #lovinlifeisgreat@68
(Part of this story excerpted from my self-help memoire endorsed by Doris Day, “The Grandma Boom Chronicles….More Alive at 65!” (Available at Renaissance Rose and Tree House Books in Ashland, and on Amazon)

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.