BULL THE BOOTLEGGER: Our Noisy 1920s Neighbour

The Windsor area was a hot bed of rum running activity (graphic Walkerville Publishing)

Another great story from “Was I Ever Lucky”, a memoir I am editing for long-time Windsorite, Barbara Kersey (née MacDonald).

When my father, mother, little brother and I first came to Windsor from Nova Scotia in the mid-1920s, we lived in a small home on Moy Avenue between Giles and what was then Huron Street. (In 1935, when Walkerville amalgamated with Windsor, Huron became known as Richmond Street.)

Prohibition was in full force. This was the period in history in which the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors was outlawed. In Michigan, it lasted from 1919 until 1933 while in Ontario it ran from 1917 to 1930.

In Windsor, where alcohol continued to be made for export just one mile away from Detroit, some Windsorites made fortunes “rum-running” on the Detroit River.

Across the alley and down a bit from our house lived a family that one could safely say were not your typical neighbours. We never got to know them personally but they were very familiar to everyone in the neighbourhood. The father’s name was Bull, which suited him perfectly; he was a big man in size and reputation. The few times I saw him he never smiled.

Bull had an enormous garage at the back of the property, which was rumored to be full of liquor. It was said he was a big time bootlegger.

Often at night our family was awakened by the sound of gunfire and then police sirens, followed by frantic activity in the alley.

Sure enough, Bull’s men were returning from a run to the Detroit River, only a few blocks away, where they had made a liquor delivery to someone running it across the border. The police were in hot pursuit!

Working for Bull was certainly a hazardous occupation.

For the MacDonald family, it was all very mind boggling and a far cry from our quiet Nova Scotia farm.


To read more about prohibition and Windsor’s crazy rum-running history, check out my article: “Windsor Went Wild in the Roaring Twenties.” 

About Elaine Weeks

How history was taught in my day: memorize lots of boring dates and facts, watch corny old black & white history films. There was one bright spot, however. Grade 9 history at Walkerville Collegiate with Miss Falls (Georgina) when she taught a section on local history and took us on a field trip to explore some of Windsor's built heritage. Due to a series of peculiar events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, Walkerville Publishing Inc., (partner is Chris Edwards) launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999 and we produced 61 issues - the last in 2016. In 2004, we began producing local history books; that year we released "Best of The Times Magazine". Our current titles include 5000 Ways You Know You're From Detroit, 500 Ways You Know You're From Windsor, Walkerville - Whisky Town Extraordinaire, and Windsor Then - A Pictorial Essay of Windsor's Glorious Past. I also wrote a novel, Time Trespasser, that blends time travel with local history. I am working on a sequel. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, glass is nearly full person.
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2 Responses to BULL THE BOOTLEGGER: Our Noisy 1920s Neighbour

  1. Is Elaine Weeks the author of this article?

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