A Different Kind of Teddy
Among all of the clean family fun, there was another factor shaping social affairs at the time. A teddy... of rum or moonshine or whiskey. Since the 1880’s, prohibition had existed in one form or another on PEI. It started with the Scott Act, which permitted the sale of alcohol for medical, religious, and industrial purposes only. Then in 1900, PEI became the first province to jump on the prohibition bandwagon with its own legislation. It was essentially the same law; liquor was to be sold only for medicinal, industrial, or sacramental use. But unlike before, there was no allowance for communities to opt in or out. Doctors were sometimes noted for overdoing it with their prescriptions, and it seems that may have been the case in Murray River (as it was in most other communities):
There is no excuse for either druggist or physician not knowing their respective duties under the act, and it seems to me a public disgrace and scandal the way the law has been disregarded in respect to both these matters at Montague and Murray River…
- Premier (1908-11) Francis L. Haszard in response to a letter from W.L. Poole, President of the Kings County Liberal Association, who wrote to say that Chief Prohibition Inspector Jenkins was “administering the temperance law in a very partial manner”, and threatened trouble if the gov’t didn’t keep Jenkins out of Kings County!26.
But doctors weren’t the only people to get liquor from in the area. There was always moonshine distillers and rum runners in the community, and Greek River is remembered for being the local bootlegging mecca. Roy Clow27. recalled one family that moved their house from Murray Harbour North to Greek River to be bootleggers; Sam Gillis and his wife Linda used 40 horses to transport their house over the ice! Of course, there was the odd bootlegger all over the countryside; Roy also told Dutch Thompson about an Abney man who was busted by police when a pig dug up the moonshine he had hidden in his yard! Obviously, it was a divisive issue; some people loved the bootleggers, while others thought they were a “menace”:
The jailer informed me “he crawled through the bars.” That young man was never arrested again. He is at home in Greek River and is a menace to the place.
-Rev J.S. MacKay of MH, writing to Premier (1923-27 and 1931-33) James D. Stewart about a young man who escaped jail after being arrested for having a still.26.
No matter what people thought of them, bootleggers had always been a part of prohibition era society. It ended with the temperance act of 1948, which set up government liquor stores and allowed people to buy permits to get a case of beer or 24oz of spirits per week (or ½ of a case and 12oz). This made PEI the last place in Canada to end prohibition. Bars continued to be banned until the mid 60’s (save for some legions and non-profit clubs that had been allowed to sell liquor since 1954), and the permit system was finally eliminated in 1967.26.