“Smugglers, Rum Runners & Bootleggers” – Prohibition in Ventura County hosted by Mark Frees
Prohibition made a famous name of gangsters such as Al Capone and other Tommy Gun toting hooch smugglers. As documentarian Ken Burns once said,” Prohibition fueled the Jazz Age and made the ’20s roar.” It was a time pockmarked with corruption, big money and killings. It was the “wets” versus the “drys.”
Some of this filtered into Ventura County, then an isolated and unpopulated outpost inhabited by about 28,000 people per the 1920 census, a far cry from the 820,000-plus who live here now. Its remote nature and geography was a bonanza for lawbreakers in the illegal liquor business. There were raids, shootouts and murders.
Canyons in Santa Paula and elsewhere were ideal places to fire up illegal stills. The mainland coast and the Channel Islands offshore with their array of secluded coves, caves, inlets, rocky outcroppings and beaches, offered hundreds of places for rumrunners to stash and deliver their booty, or lay low from the law.
Local historian Mark Frees presents his research into the nearby stories of absurd efforts made to avoid arrest, transport booze undetected and to profit from illegal sales around our community.