Jan. 10, 2012 at 11:28amHappy 2012!

Rumrunners in Spokane

I hope your holiday was everything you hoped for. If it was anything like mine it was filled with family, fun and food … lots of food … too much food!

I took a couple of weeks off from the blog and am back refreshed and looking forward to a great new blogging year in 2012.


I know I’ve talked about watching programs online before but I have to repeat myself because it’s so easy to do and easy on your schedule when you can just watch programming whenever you choose.

I watched Rumrunners’ Paradise the other night and it was some of the most interesting local historical programs I’ve seen on KSPS.

The program shines a light on the Pacific Northwest during Prohibition, particularly in the Spokane area. It’s fascinating to see, through old photographs and reenactments, how Prohibition affected people right here in Spokane.

The programs begin on New Year’s Eve, 1915, when Spokanites were celebrating and partying on what was supposed to be the “last call for alcohol” before the entire state would legally go dry.

But similar to what happened in other parts of the U.S. during Prohibition, the law spawned overnight “entrepreneurs” who went into the business of supplying the huge demand for liquor.

However, in the PNW it was not gangland mobsters who picked up the slack. It was ordinary, law-abiding citizens who profited from the new law. And because we're so close to Canada it was relatively easy to get their goods and bring it to Spokane. Since the border was so sparsely-populated and easy to cross, it was called "Whiskey Gap."

According to the KSPS background page it was pretty easy to buy bootleg liquor in the city. One story states that in “Trent Alley” one could walk along and drop money down a hole and a hand would reach up and give you a drink. One women who lived near a golf course turned her home into a beer parlor. As thirsty golfers finished up their rounds, she would provide them with beer served in tomato cans.

Apparently the police and enforcement officers didn’t do much to stop the flow of liquor traffic. Many for mercenary reasons looked the other way allowing a never ending steam of whiskey and beer into the area. There was a saying in Spokane, "If you want a drink, go see the three wise men-- the cabdriver, the policeman and the bootblack."

For future airs check the program schedule. But remember, you can watch it online any time day or night!

Historians and authors contributing to the documentary include Dr. Dale Soden, Whitworth; Bill Stimson, EWU; Dr. William Rorabaugh, UW; Jim Kershner, Jim Price, and Tony Bamonte.

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