An often-told family tale counters the Coast Guard’s 1930s report on a chicken house liquor stash

By Steve and Donna Bunting
From the April 2019 issue


In November 2017, Delaware Beach Life published an article about Prohibition headlined “Bootleggers on the Beach,” which mentioned the Coast Guard discovering “more than 200 sacks of illegal liquor in a chicken house in Bethany.”

 According to that account, the booze was confiscated but the perps got away. As we read the story, we thought back to a family story, one we had heard many times, and smiled. What we knew happened that day in 1932 is somewhat different from the official record — and most certainly our family story was laced with far more colorful details. We figured it was time to correct the published account.     

The Beach Life story cited as its source Eric Mills’ book “Chesapeake Rumrunners of the Roaring Twenties,” which in turn cites U.S. Coast Guard records, specifically “RG 26, Entry 283A, Box 1244.” If history tells us anything, it’s that (1) official reports often don’t tell the whole story and (2) official reports often portray the reporter in a favorable manner. Let’s move on with that in mind.