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peopletalk's Podcast

Apr 16, 2015



Recorded by Kay Barbour on an iPod, edited & produced by Nigel Killick


Here is an interview between Dorotha Miller 94 years old and her daughters 
Kay Barbour about Dorotha early life and her Father who had to become was a Bootlegger and outlaw after the Great Depression of 1929. These were hard and dangerous times. It was also around the time of Bonnie and Clyde.






Dorotha Miller was born in Huntington West Virginia in 1921 and will be 94 in May. Her family wasn't necessarily poor but what we call today as the "working poor". Sometimes her father had a job and sometimes he didn't. Bootlegging was what he did to make up the difference. It was easy money but it came with a risk and he spent some time in and out of jail as you will tell from her story.


Then after the stock market crash in 1929, bootlegging became a way to make money to put food on the table. She tells a story about her aunt getting arrested for bootlegging during the depression after her husband died.  Her aunt ( her fathers sister) lived way up in the hills of West Virginia and had five kids to feed and no way to get a job. Not only did she not have any skills but even able bodied men could not get a job.


There was no such thing as Social Security or Welfare or any other "safety net" for people in this situation. So she started bootlegging; selling whiskey out of her home out of desperation to provide for her children. She got busted by the police and went to jail for a year. She was afraid the authorities would try to take her children away and put them in orphanages so she asked my mother's mother(my grandmother) to go get the children and try to find homes for them till she got out of jail.


Times were hard and lots of people did not have jobs so she knew that one family could not take all five children. So the children were split up among cousins, grandparents and aunts & uncles. One of the older girls stayed in my mother's home. And a year later when she got out of jail she got her children and went right back to bootlegging! What else was she going to do? But this time she was smarter and knew what to do to not get busted again!


The point is that a lot of bootlegging and moonshining was done during the depression as a way to make money when people were out of jobs.


Dorotha Miller also says that there was a famous Irish bootlegger, who's made his money this way.  Dorotha talks about this with great indignation in her voice! Her father spent time in jail and was looked down on for what he did but other people, well connected people made millions during the Depression time and are looked upon a respectable members in the American society today!