West Side Stories | Essay | Chicago Reader

West Side Stories 

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Pa always took Marge and me with him on a summer's night when he went to get his pail of beer. One night he had to work overtime. We were little kids, three and four, and he was coming home late from work--and there were his two little girls walking down the alley with his pail. We said, "Papa, we were going to get your beer." He never took us again. That finished us going to the saloon.

During prohibition it seemed like everybody in town made their own. So pa used to buy from here and there and the other place. The only place he didn't buy from was next door, the McLaughlin's. He wouldn't go there. That was too close to home. After all, it was bootleg stuff. You weren't supposed to be getting it.

But anyway, one day pa decided if everybody else could make hooch, he could make it too. So he went out and he bought himself a still, which was a great big ceramic crock. He bought malt and hops and whatever else goes into it. And he was very happy that he had this stuff fermenting in the basement. Then one day it all blew up. The still was in pieces all over the basement.

Well, ma wasn't the happiest person in the world. She did not want her husband making this stuff. She'd rather he went out and got it from some of these other people. She'd rather he didn't drink it at all.

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