Basil the Bootlegger

IMAG2423Years ago people used to comment all the time on what a small world we live in. That was back in the days before social media and the Internet, when you could travel to another county in the province or even a whole other province and cross paths with someone who knew a relative or neighbour from your little community. It seemed a big deal. A little serendipitous, a little uncanny that you should stumble across someone who shares that connection with you—enough to make someone declare what a small world it is. Usually here in Dalhousie, you’d meet someone who was acquainted with an old fellow who used to bootleg. Seemed no matter where you went in Canada, and mentioned you were from Dalhousie, his name would come up. I swear he’s East Dalhousie’s most famous person which is exactly what Cammie had to say about her aunt Millie in Flying With a Broken Wing. But seriously, that’s the truth about these little communities in Nova Scotia—the bootlegger holds near celebrity status. And now just look, there’s a blog post even named after the bootlegger from Dalhousie. Yup, people still remember him from back in the day. I should only hope for the same recognition with my books. Hmmm, maybe I need to rethink this writing career of mine!

These days our world has been made even smaller via the Internet and social media sites. Now, we’re stumbling across people from all over the world. I can promise you though, not one of them has heard tell of Basil the bootlegger. Well, maybe now if you’re reading my blog. With all the social media sites out there we’re privy to information we’ve never had before and our world just keeps getting smaller. Some of you might remember that I was contacted last winter from someone in the US who wanted a picture of an ancestors tombstone here in Dalhousie. I snapped a photo and sent it off…Super cool. I was happy to oblige.

If you’re an author, the world has also become smaller with all the different sites at your disposal. A Google search of you or your book will bring up reviews as well as all the sites your book is listed on. You can read what others have to say about your book on GoodReads and what rating they give it. A site called WorldCat.org will show you the libraries around the world where your book (print and digital) is available. How cool to know that “Flying With a Broken Wing,” is in a library in Perth, Australia, and that someone in Singapore can sign out a copy of “Bitter, Sweet” and read about life in little old East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia—my backyard yet a totally different world for them.

An author can even track their book sales (print and digital) on a site called NovelRank that allows you to track your book on any Amazon site around the world. Novel Rank tells me that someone in France downloaded a digital copy of Flying With a Broken Wing. Tell me you don’t think that’s cool! There’s also a site called “Author Central” that tells you areas in the US that reported sales of your books, as well as the number of copies and how your book sales rank. Copies of my books have sold in Ohio, Colorado, New York, Minneapolis, Washington and Boston. (I believe this site keeps track of, not only Amazon sales, but other sales as well.)

And if all that doesn’t have you falling over with adulation for the Internet, you can become involved in promoting your own book through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or by starting your own blog through WordPress or Blogger. Whew! I’m exhausted just writing this. Some might say we really don’t need all these tools at our disposable, and that might be true, nonetheless they’re here. Like it or lump it. I prefer to like it, but also to pick and choose how much time I’ll devote to any one of these sites. Let’s face it, if your book makes a peep anywhere in the world you have the ability to know about it. Wonder why some days the Internet can make us feel like a spy?

To prove my point about how small the world has become I just did a Google search on Basil the Bootlegger and a whole page of links came up. Seems he’s more world famous that I previous thought! Okay, so I’m just joking with you, but I bet I had you fooled for a second.

So, I’m sure you’re curious to know—was Basil actually related to me or just someone from the community? You bet he was a relative, a distant cousin a few times removed. Wow, never thought I’d be boasting that fact. When all is said and done my claim to fame might not be the books I write at all, but the fact that I have a connection to the once infamous bootlegger of East Dalhousie. Go figure!

The only thing now that could bring Basil world wide recognition would be if this post went viral. Now wouldn’t that be a hoot?

What are you thoughts on the small world we live in today? Is it good, bad, scary or do you fully embrace it? More importantly, do you know who Basil the bootlegger was or were you related to him?

 

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18 Comments

  1. angela wilson

     /  July 2, 2015

    Some of my ancestors on my father’s side were rum rummers back in the day. Most of my mother’s side of the family are what I call Puritans (don’t smoke, drink, etc.). haha Yes, the Internet has connected and reconnected us to people we know, we knew and will get to know. It can be a wonderful thing. I might add, I love hearing stories from people about the way things were back in the day.

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    • I’m sure there are plenty of interesting stories out there, Angela! And I agree I ennjoy hearing them, too. 🙂

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  2. Linda

     /  July 2, 2015

    Laura, that hits pretty close to home. Another cousin and I once had a very interesting conversation, regarding “Basil”, in our case he was our uncle, and the all the pros of having the entrepreneurial “business man” in the community. Although when I was a child, I did see him as more of an embarassment.

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    • Yes, you have a very close connection, Linda, and really, he was quite the businessman I hear. 😉 Isn’t it funny that the things we found embarrassing in the past are later laughed about when we reminisce.

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  3. Googling a name brings up all sorts of interesting tidbits! I didn’t know about Basil, but in the genealogy research of my maiden name I discovered ancestors that ran the gamut from a King of Ireland to someone hung as a horse thief!

    I have mixed feelings about the ‘small world’ aspect created by social media. On one end of the scale are all the wonderful cyber friendships that I’ve developed, and the knowledge I’ve gained of situations around the world. On the other end is the realization that every connection brings with it a personal responsibility. Getting emotionally involved with everyone’s needs and life events can be overwhelming.

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    • There are always advantages and disadvantages to everything, it would seem, Sometimes I find all this info a little too much. And it’s strange how we can become emotionally connected to people we’ve never met. Makes me wonder sometimes what the future holds in store!

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  4. Jo-Ann

     /  July 2, 2015

    I remember Basil, Laura. I remember being timid of him when I was a little girl. My mom worked for him before she married Dad. As a matter of fact, I think there is where they met. You don’t hear of bootleggers anymore but they were quite common when I was a young girl. We had a few here in Springfield also. Those were the days!!!

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    • I suppose life has changed for the bootleggers with all the NSLC in the area and at the corner stores. Kind of forced them out of business. 😉 It was a different life, that’s for sure!

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  5. I do believe it’s a small(er) world but have not heard of Basil. Sounds there’s a lot to his background. I love when people dig up lost or newly found branches of the family, which invariably come with fascinating stories. ❤

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    • See, Tess, but you’ve heard of Basil now! 😉 I think it’s a shame that many stories get lost through time. I find it interesting that the stories we didn’t care to talk about at the time now seems quite interesting us.

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  6. Yes, yes, Laura. The world is small and getting smaller. More crowded, meaner and less of the enchanted worlds from which we came, but for sure smaller. And no, I never heard of Basil the Bootlegger. However …

    My parents, aunts and uncles were from the Great Depression era, the suck-it-up and make your own way without the government’s help era. They were also the era of Prohibition in the US. My uncle made bathtub gin and everyone they knew made beer in a tub. One of my uncles made a good buck during that time and while they were deciding the fate of that silly edict … he bought an abandoned bar. It was on the top of a hill and attached to a three story wooden staircase that went down to a big house and after Prohibition was repealed … he smartly opened the bar, my aunt cooked Italian food in the house and they became very comfortable. This same uncle read a fifth page tiny article about an upstart called John Watson who had the nerve to want to open his company in a small town over the Mid-Hudson Bridge that connected Poughkeepsie and Highland New York. Then he was serving a man who sat on the City Council and learned that that same man was petitioning to put his company in Poughkeepsie. The skinny was that they were going to approve the site. And the next month my uncle began putting his booze dollars into land all over Poughkeepsie county, which included Wappinger’s Fall … where the site was to be located. The town had only been known as the home of Vassar College until that upstart John Watson opened the factory and main offices of IBM in Wappenger Falls.

    So my dirt poor, Italian immigrant, bootlegging and bar toting uncle became very, very rich because he invested every dime he had and put his son and son-in-law in the construction business. Then they became very rich.

    The other uncle who never became rich had grape arbors and collected all the dandelions he could find every spring. He had two stills in his basement and made “hootch” for all the neighborhood men, during and after Prohibition.

    The moral of the story could be that Basic the Bootlegger might have morphed into a corporate giant and his headquarters are now located in Dubai and all this children and great grandchildren are money lenders, who are like bootleggers and take all the stuff that no one thought was worth a piss and converted them into billions 🙂

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    • LOL! Love your story, Florence…and the moral to it. Hey, if Basil somehow managed to make unheard of riches I’m sure there are some close family members who might be interested especially since he never married or had kids (that we know of.) Could be there’s a who lot we don’t know about Basil. 😉

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  7. This is an interesting topic. The world is made much smaller by technology. When I called the phone company tonight to ask someone to check my internet connection he was even able to tell me that my iPad was in use at the time! Yike! I do appreciate my privacy (is it still a real thing?) however, I also am grateful for the connections I’ve made through the Internet, most I will probably never meet in person, such as the friend with whom I chatted on Skype. Amazing, isn’t it?

    Years ago, in my community the bootlegger was Janie. On weekends it seems she got a lot of traffic, many “underage”, I think. Laura, please don’t reconsider your writing career; your books are not illegal or under an age limit – so there’s no need for sneaking around to enjoy them. 😉

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    • Funny, Lynn, I was actually reminded on FB but there was another bootlegger in the area..but really, there was also a lady bootlegger who lived here, well before my time. I suppose it was a booming business in these small rural areas. And yes, I think bootleggers were popular with the “underage” crowd. (No ID required!)

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  8. Judi

     /  July 7, 2015

    Oh, Laura, the stories I could tell about Basil!!!! I cant remember the times I had to be dropped off at Basils, because my Dad was there listening to stories and had one too many to drive home. So I would go up and bring him home. I think Im with you, Basil was a cousin of ours to. I always liked Basil, although I would get really annoyed when Dad was there and I had to go and get him. But, of course, that wasn’t Basils fault. I think there are a lot of people who could tell some very interesting stories to do with Basil and all that went on there. I know Dad had some very fantastic stories to tell when he came home. Some that Mom wouldn’t let us kids listen too..LOL Basil was a force to be reckoned with, he was small but mighty. I thank you for making me remember all the times I drove Dad home, I was only 14 or 15 at the time, but I was the only one Dad would call to come and get him. xoxo

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    • Oh Judi, you’ve been holding out on me. Haven’t heard that story before! Yes, many people spent time at Basil’s. I guess for some it was the “go to” place. Lots of gossip and refreshments to go along with it. What more you you ask for? 😉

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  9. Basil was my uncle and indeed a character! He never called my 2 sisters and I by our real names. It was always May, Hannah or Skeezicks. I was usually called May after my 1st grade teacher, I believe. There would be times we would be driving somewhere with him and it always took a LONG time to get home because he would have to stop at his favorite bootleggers along the way. Talk about driving under the influence! He drove about 20 miles an hour so we usually felt semi safe, but jeez….crazy or what! As we became a bit older he would offer us a free beer; we loved him for that as I think it was only family that would get a freebie. That was his way of treating us special!

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    • Ha! I forgot about how slowly he drove.But it’s all coming back to me. Thanks for sharing your memories, Narda. And wow! Free beer, just one of the perks of having a bootlegger for an uncle, I suppose. Not many people can make that claim! 😉

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