Anderson Family History

South Dakota Bootlegging

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During the prohibition era, every area had it’s bootlegger to supply the booze you could not purchase legally. Salem’s supplier of the outlawed beverage was a gentleman by the name of Peter V. Hanson. Pete lived in the Center, South Dakota area and supported his family by tending to his farm. An additional source of income, which was perhaps better than farming, was his profits from bootlegging.

When Pete’s supply of whiskey was starting to get low, it was time for another run to his supplier in Canada. Pete had his automobile modified special for this purpose. Springs were stiffened to the point where, when fully loaded, no sag was apparent in the appearance of the car. Also an auxiliary fuel tank was built into the car so it would make the 500-mile run to Canada without having to stop for fuel. After loading his vehicle with booze and refueling in Canada, he would head back to his farm by Center.

He was one of the better gas customers of the Center store because when he fueled up before one of his runs, he would take several times as much gasoline as the average fill-up patron. And he was a cash customer which made his business more than welcome.

Pete’s distribution system was always rather indirect. If somebody made a purchase of his product, they would leave their money in a designated culvert or by the third fencepost from the corner, or whatever drop-point Pete determined was safest. Then the money was picked up and the liquor left in its place without any direct contact between buyer and seller. The local law undoubtedly knew of Pete’s enterprise, and maybe Pete helped out by contributing to the sheriff’s re-election campaign fund.

By MERLAND HOWE, 2005.

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