An idea that was all wet

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 27, 2007 - 4:08 PM

'Yeah, we made booze, right there in our house."

Linnea Gordon might be 98, but she retains vivid memories of the Prohibition era, when she and her husband, Vernon Buck, made and sold moonshine at her parents' home in the 4700 block of Nicollet Avenue S. in Minneapolis.

Like many home distillers in the early 1930s, they did a thriving business and consorted with other underground characters, including the notorious Isadore Blumenfeld, aka "Kid Cann."I suppose you could say Vernon was a gangster," said Gordon. "He made booze and sold booze and carried a gun wherever he went."

The two eventually divorced, and Buck "went straight," or at least into politics, at one point becoming assistant state conciliator.

But during the latter years of Prohibition (1930-33), the two of them concocted a clear liquor from grains in the basement of the south Minneapolis home and added brown food coloring. "My mom put on the labels," Gordon recalled recently. "She wanted to make sure they were straight and looked nice."

Weekends were particularly frenetic. They did brisk business out of their home on Friday nights and Saturdays, then headed north to the family cabin near Mille Lacs with more "hooch" in tow. "We had customers all day, and from all over the place."

And what about the long arm of the law?

"Oh, coppers were our very best customers."

Address Book

ST. PAUL

• 10 E. 11th St.: Police headquarters, where Chief John O'Connor and successors guaranteed gangsters a safe haven as long as they checked in with police, paid a small bribe and promised not to kill, kidnap or rob within city limits.

• 1031 S. Robert St. (near Barnard): Ma Barker and the Barker-Karpis gang lived here until a raid in April 1932; they subsequently moved their home base to a cottage on White Bear Lake.

• 1095 Osceola Av. (at Lexington): The FBI called the Edgecumbe Court Apartments a "lamsters' hideout" because so many bank robbers lived there.

• 1590 Mississippi River Blvd.: The Hollyhocks Club casino was a wildly popular hangout for gangsters, and served as the "practice" staging ground for the William Hamm Jr. kidnapping.

MINNEAPOLIS

• 10 Hennepin Av. S.: In 1924, federal agents stored $100,000 worth of bootleg at the Kedney Warehouse; a few months later, the contents of about two-thirds of the barrels had mysteriously changed from whiskey to water.

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