Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Thriller Thursday - Granny was a Bootlegger

Giovanna "Jennie" Trunzo nee Ferraro
Prohibition in the United States. It was called "The Noble Experiment" and many prohibitionists believed that banning the manufacture, purchase, and sale of alcohol would lower crime rates and boost the economy, but they found the opposite to be true. Gangsters profited greatly from the manufacture and sale of illegal alcohol. People suffered and died from drinking unsafe and unregulated liquor/spirits. Unemployment spiked as businesses that sold or manufactured alcohol closed. Is it any wonder why granny would bootleg liquor for some cash when it was so profitable for others? Of course granny was more likely than not to be the one to get busted for it. The big guys knew what they were doing.

My mom told me that some of her great-aunts bootlegged during Prohibition, but isn't that a typical family history story? Everyone had a bootlegger in the family. Not much by way of proof generally turns up though. That doesn't mean they weren't bootlegging it just means that we haven't proven it. I'm sure there were plenty of people that were ignoring that particular amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the case of my step-dad's grandmother though we have proof.

The Indiana Gazette, 10JUN1930, pg 14
"The case of Jennie Trunzo, of Beyer, charged with selling and possessing intoxicating liquor was before the court when court adjourned at 5:45 o'clock and testimony was still being heard when court convened at 9:00 o'clock this morning."

Now I perused a page on Prohibition via and learned a few things I didn't know. I didn't know that this movement had been underway for a very long time. There were states that had prohibition laws in place well before the 18th amendment passed and after the 21st amendment repealed the 18th there were some states that held on to their prohibition laws until the 1960s! I also didn't realize that the law didn't actually ban the consumption of alcohol. That was technically still legal. You just couldn't purchase, sell, or manufacture it.

The first article on granny Jennie (Giovanna Trunzo nee Ferraro) talks of her being in court for her prohibition violation. The second article gave me a chuckle at how light her punishment was. It almost wasn't worth the court's time...

The Indiana Progress, 09JUN1930, pg 1
"Jennie Trunzo, violation of the liquor laws - sentence suspended on payment of the costs."

Granny didn't get much punishment for her crime. The dates are correct on them both. Note that they are from different publications but the one that shows her punishment was printed a day prior to the newspaper that reported on her merely being in court. I guess it took the Gazette a bit to get that small story together.

Did everyone get off so easily? The other crimes listed on that page of the Progress showed assaults, destruction of property, and another liquor law violation. Jennie got off jail time. The others got time in the county jail ranging from 60 days to 6 months (three months for the other liquor violation). Why the difference in sentencing? Was it simply because she was a woman? Were there no facilities in the county jail for a woman? Did they take pity on her because her husband was no longer in America and she was taking care of her family alone? All of their children were grown, but I know that my step-dad would be living with her before the end of that decade. Whatever the reason what these liquor laws did was turn people that would have normally been law-abiding citizens into criminals.

Leader-Times, Kittanning, PA
09OCT1964, pg 17
What was the result on Granny Jennie's reputation? I doubt she was looked on as much of a hardened, dangerous criminal. She was buried on church grounds in St. Bernard's Cemetery and had more than one priest assisting in her burial mass. Not exactly a hushed up ceremony either. Good for granny though. She did what she had to do. I've posted her obituary previously, but I thought I'd share her funeral notice and FindAGrave memorial along with her court appearances.

"TRUNZO - Solemn requiem high mass for Mrs. Jennie Trunzo, Sagamore, who died Wednesday (Oct. 7, 1964) in Armstrong County Memorial Hospital will be intoned at 10 a.m. Monday by the rev. Carl P. Milano in Sacred Heart RC Church, Saxonburg. He will be assisted by the Rev. John Kavanaugh and the Rev. Nicholas Mitolo. Burial will follow in St. Bernard Cemetery, Indiana.* Friends are being received from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at the Bowser Funeral home, Plumville."

*Indiana referring to Indiana town/city in Indiana county in Pennsylvania...not Indiana.