When the Prohibition era arrives in 1920, it changes the lives of almost every person living in America, including Bernie Winghart.
Instead of pursuing a career as a factory worker or mechanic, Bernie vows to “save the people” from the bad liquor that’s killing them. He teams up with his brother, Joe Winghart Jr., and his sister-in-law, Mayme Schaller Winghart, to illegally sell alcohol to the masses. Known as the “Bootlegging Trio,” they profit handsomely.
Even so, this formerly upstanding family from upstate New York is now part of a secret underworld of lawbreakers that includes sinister gangsters. There is danger everywhere, and Bernie is so intimidated that he vows never to marry until he’s out of the business. He goes from woman to woman, breaking hearts.
Told through the perspective of the bootleggers’ daughter, Bernie, You’re a Bootlegger! gives a glimpse into how Prohibition affected one family and an entire nation until it was declared a failure.
The hour was late and they traveled a dark country road. A vehicle driving towards the couple suddenly crossed the center line and Bernie swerved to the right to avoid a collision. His right arm flew over to hold Louise back in the seat and prevent her from falling forward. As the tire went over the edge of the road, the jolt caused a hidden bottle of whiskey too break. The odor was unmistakable. After Bernie steadied the vehicle, Louise found her voice and said "Bernie, you're a bootlegger!"
Joan Winghart Wilcox Sullivan formerly lived near Braddocks Bay in upstate New York, where Bernie, You’re a Bootlegger! is based. Several of her family members were once bootleggers, and she conducted extensive genealogical research to write this book.