Vignette Vol.2 No.6
Resource: BEHIND THESE MOUNTAINS ]
1917 - Noxon. Excerpt--For a short while, Andy Knutson's election gave Noxonites a safe topic to hash over. Voting precincts and elections, established in the valley more than two decades earlier, made discussing local elections a familiar subject; so discussing local election news was an innocuous distraction from war news and the seemingly endless new restrictions that were changing valley culture.
Of this pyramid of five young men at Noxon only Don Maynard, Alex Peterson and Joe Bedard are named. The picture, with conflicting information in two collections records them as either NPRR signalmen, or Civilian Conservation Corp enrollees, uknown date, courtesy Don Maynard, and Ruth Mercer McBee collections.
Idaho had been declared "dry" at the end of the previous year. Laws affecting alcoholic beverages changed life in the valley considerably. Many wondered how soon Montana might fall victim to such foolishness, however conversing about it was dicey. People had to be cautious about what they confided, and whom they trusted.
A.J. Kline, recently from Tulsa, Oklahoma, threw in with Emil Gavin and Alex Davies, and the men soon became Montana Moonshiners, operating three moonshine stills, making "moon" for Spokane markets. Trainmen on the Northern Pacific Railroad transported a goodly amount of their product. The men discreetly delivered it to freight trains that stopped to take on water from the NPRR tank located between Emil's cabin and A.J.'s ranch, near Heron. A small mountain of five-gallon cans rusted on the hill behind Kline's spring, reminders of ingredients for the "moon."
In June 1917, another federal law making it illegal to ship liquor into dry territories for any except medicinal, sacramental or mechanical purposes, caused Montana liquor men who had been doing a heavy business by mail, to shift gears. Dances at Peek's Hall became even more popular than before. Dancing wasn't the main attraction for out-of-staters who returned home with a supply of forbidden liquor.
Saloonkeepers weren't the only men reaping profits. With the right connections and a bit of daredevil nerve, enterprising young men pocketed more money than working for the forest service allowed.
Those who knew about moonshine activities turned a blind eye. The old adage applied: "See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil". Each man's business was his own alone. "Don't stick your nose in my business and I'll stay out of your affairs", was the guiding light of most valley men and women. However, a good many of both sexes cussed and ranted when confronted with legislation that curtailed card playing.
Ever since men arrived in the valley, card playing had been a favorite pastime. Rummy and solo were played for drinks, cigars or chips in saloons. At Noxon, Charley Maynard's pool hall on Main Street was just east of the store Henry Larson bought from Dr. Peek in 1918.
Charley Maynard's son, Don, a fancy young man, had taken over the business from his father. Lumberjacks from logging camps on Rock Creek hiked to town and enjoyed fellowship with town dwellers, playing games of chance in the evenings, and also on Saturdays and Sundays.
The pool hall issued "hickies," small, pasteboard chips worth a nickel apiece, as winnings for the games. Rummy and pangeni were preferred over poker and other games.
"Kids, whose mothers weren't particular where they spent their idle time, used to hang around the pool hall real handy. Some of the fellows, winning a handful of chips, was bound to share generously", Carmen Moore said.
Under the provisions of a law passed by the legislature, and approved by the governor on March 3, 1918, it became a misdemeanor for any proprietor of a saloon, drug store, pool hall or other business establishment to permit these games to be played on his premises.
Enforcement of the law meant abolishing the games, or the proprietors could face a stiff fine and imprisonment. Included were monte, dondo, fan-tan, studhorse poker, craps, seven-and-a-half, twenty-one, faro, roulette, hokey-pokey, pangeni or pangene, draw poker or the game commonly called round-the-table-poker, or any game of chance played with cards, dice or any device.
Outlawing slot machines, punchboards and other devices followed, under the anti-gambling law. Sheriff J.L. "Joe" Hartman warned that raids would be made. The penalty was a $100 fine, with imprisonment for not less than three months nor more than one year, or by both fine and imprisonment.
This scene from an always popular local entertainment at Noxon is titled "Stick-'em-up" from the play titled "D.F, Tablu Beer Joint" with Kelly Thomson seated at center of the table being the only identified member of the cast in the unidentified location that could have been in Brown's Pool Hall, date unknown, courtesy Ruth Mercer McBee collection.
[Resource is also available free online @ Behind These Mountains, Volume III ]
PDF copies of "Behind These Mountains, Vols. I, II & III" are available on a DVD - $50 S&H included, plus author's permission to print or have printed buyers personal copy of each of the approximately 1200 page books which contain about 1,000 photographs from homesteaders personal albums.
Mona Leeson Vanek
13505 E Broadway Ave., Apt. 243
Spokane Valley, WA 99216
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