"you'll just lay beneath the junipers, as the moonshine's bright....watchin' those jugs a fillin'...'neath the pale moonlight." refrain from the song Copper Kettle.
|Johnny Witt and my father, Donald Bowling. |
Dad gives his version of working for
moon shiners in the audio video on this blog.
Later these two would join the Army together.
My dad would make a long career out of the military.
I only speak about my own family history for the most part on this blog. We are only one very small, tiny part, of a very large story. Getting as many of those tiny parts put together as possible, gives us a better view of the Appalachia we know and love.
As an example, recently they moved my cousin's beer joint building to Crab Orchard museum to use as a display and meeting place. It was a pretty famous place in our area just for the politicians that would show up. I will have to write that story later. I was unaware of the building being moved until I visited the museum and I asked the director, "Why did they moved Cousin Jr.'s beer joint?" She went, “Sshhh! We don't call it a beer joint!”
Yes, it had the nickname of the Frog Level Yacht club, and it was sort of a "store" that 30 years ago was a gas station (which is what they prefer to call it). It boasted the oldest tavern license in Virginia, handed down through the family for over 150 years until June died, but being corrected not to call it a beer joint or tavern which is really what we knew it as? You just have to shake your head and say, "OK, if you say so."
Junior did not sell many groceries but sold nabs, soda pop and beer...tons of BEER!. When it was a gas station there just was not enough parking and a patron would have to come in to ask someone to move away from the pumps so he could get gas. In all the times I visited Junior we never bought gas. It was always too hard to get to the pumps.
But June Bowling had the best conversations of the day and could easily relate history and issues of the past with the present. There was hardly any local historical subject, whether it be politics, events, people or places, he didn't know something about. Add the best cooler's in the county to keep that brew icy and that is what made this place special.
It's the attitude of getting away from the alcohol part, which other than June, is what made Junior's place what it was, I'm having trouble with. Call it a store/service station, but we who were patrons of the place did not think of it in those terms. If it cleans it up for "their" perceptions from a beer joint/tavern to sell it and preserves the building...go for it. But something is getting lost in the translation.
My cousins and I had been chasing each other playing whatever games kids played. I had been given a glass of water during this and I left it on the table and ran back outside. In the meantime, I had not realized that my father and my uncle had pulled two of these glasses to raise a drink of shine to each other. When I ran back in and grabbed what I thought was my glass off the table, before my father could stop me, I took a large gulp! I was probably 6 years of age. It burnt all the way down and all the way back up!! I couldn't breath, my eyes teared up, I was throwing up, it was awful. Needless to say I never did ever like moonshine. That one encounter broke me of ever having the habit.
Late in 1927, Stewart Burress told Bane he was getting out of the liquor business. Federal revenuers were descending upon the mountains. He had been warned by the sheriff that even the High local sheriff could not protect them against the federal government. He warned Granddaddy Bane not to run or deliver any more. He was right. While searching through newspapers of 1927 between January and August, 136 moonshine stills had been busted up in the areas around Mercer County.
Granddaddy Bane didn't listen as most of the young men did not listen. Shortly after recording at the Bristol Sessions he too was caught transporting illegal liquor and sent to prison. It did end any chances he had of a recording career.
Thus the rift in the family. My Aunt Mable, Granddaddy Bane's sister, more than once told me, "that if Bane had not met that Stewart Burress and got caught with that illegal shine, he would have made it."
Copyright 2007-2016 Denise A. Smith