Family, Minnie's Potatoes, Writing

For the Love of Good Beer: Minnie’s Potatoes


Lumberjacks at one time in Michigan’s history were as common in beer joints as millennial men are today.

The ‘jacks of a hundred years ago share a similar language with men today … they swear loud and often. They are careless with their dress … wear torn and worn jeans with untucked plaid shirts.

Men from both ages sport last week’s whiskers or last year’s beard. Most conversations center around horse power. They work hard for months to earn money they spend recklessly on drinking and gambling.

Never bashful when using their fists, men of both ages are generally a happy crowd of good friends and good enemies. They are kind-hearted and fair-minded. When a bunch of men walk into the woods today, they are laughing and singing, shouting and cracking rough jokes just like the ‘jacks did a century ago.

The names of drinking establishments have changed over the years. What at one time was a saloon, a speakeasy or a roadhouse has become a tavern, a bar or a brewpub. The constant throughout the years has been the drinking of intoxicating liquids.

The event that almost did men in occurred a hundred years ago in 1916. Michigan voters passed a prohibition amendment to the State Constitution turning Michigan into one of the first “dry” states in the country. The Temperance folks had been working to enact this law since 1858.

The law outlawed the sale of all forms of alcohol. This meant no brewing of alcohol for other than your own use. No buying. No selling. And no transporting.

Did the laws stop men from drinking? (Laugh) Not only didn’t it stop them, it opened new occupations useful for men out of work. A man could become a bootlegger, a gangster, a hit man, or a smuggler, and all paid well.

Lumberjacks whose axes blazed the way for the new civilization which then passed them by, grew grey in the harness when the lumbering boom was over. They were out of work and out of place in their new surroundings. Many turned to farming and joined the march of Michigan’s progress in agriculture.

My great grandfather was a lumberjack turned farmer as were three of his sons. My great grandmother was a farmer turned bootlegger, as were her children and grandchildren. They each had a job in the “family business” and had a share of the profits.

Michigan repealed the State’s prohibition law seventeen years after it was enacted. Michigan was the first state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which repealed Prohibition on December 5, 1933.

Tip for the day: All bad things come to an end.

Laurice LaZebnik’s historical novel, “Minnie’s Potatoes,” chronicles the life of a Michigan immigrant family from the wilderness of early Michigan through Prohibition. “Minnie’s Potatoes” is available on in print or Kindle editions.

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