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By Laura Stec

My Great-Grandparents' Blind Pig

Uploaded: May 27, 2014

Last week, I mentioned my great grandparents had a speakeasy in Detroit. But I was wrong - it was actually a Blind Pig.

Know the difference?

A speakeasy is a Prohibition era (1920 - 1933) secret hangout with a bar and music. Quite the scene. Everybody knew, but no one was talking. Patrons were encouraged to "speak easy about their existence." A Blind Pig on the other hand, supplied 'take out,' and named because cops (pigs) turned a blind eye to the 'retail' sale of alcohol. A knock on my grandparents back door could access locally-made and organic (yes) rye whiskey, elderberry wine, dandelion wine and beer, stored in a secret room behind the dish cabinet. Some customers were even invited in to drink at the kitchen table. For them, backyard chickens supplied fresh eggs for cracking into the thick glass mugs that held the homebrew. (Raw egg + beer = drink of the day?) None of my living kin knew the password to get in, but my guess? Sto lat!

I learned the story getting ready for last week's garage sale. Mom kept opening cupboards with treasures and stories. She caught my ear with the comment, "these were the beer mugs Grandma Mary and Grandpa Joe used at their Blind Pig."

Really? Cool. Tell me more.

Turns out my great grandparents had a bar in Detroit until Prohibition shut it down in 1920. My dad's mom, Julia Augustyn worked there in her late teens and met my grandfather Frank Stec (a customer, 10 years her senior). They married in 1923 and Frank quickly got into the family business making whiskey in a second floor closet of the family home. No one had a car, and buses weren't an option, so Frank and my father Edward, (eldest of five children) carried the booze (no one called it liquor or alcohol) down the alley from their home on Military to the bar-turned-Blind Pig on Greusel and Kopernick.

"If the cops come, drop the (glass) bottles and run," my grandfather instructed my father, Ed Stec, all of about 6 years old at the time.

Increased demand around 1932 required new distribution methods. My Uncle Len remembers taking Sunday strolls to "grandma's house" with his siblings and mother, dressed in their Sunday finest, pushing a carriage filled with the little baby booze bottles.

The business continued until the upstairs distillery caught the room, and my grand dad, on fire. He had to fight it alone, and got badly burnt. What choice did he have? "Illegal? Nah, it was unlawful," explained my Uncle Richard (youngest of the three boys).

"It was only illegal back then if you got caught."

Sto lat, sto lat, niech yje, yje nam.
Sto lat, sto lat, niech yje, yje nam.
Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz, niech yje, yje nam.
Niech yje nam!

(Traditional Polish birthday drinking song)

Translation: A hundred years, a hundred years. Let him/her live, live for us!

The garage sale also uncovered a hidden box of old photos with the following ones in it. Above are Grandma Mary and Grandpa Joe Augustyn. Below, Dad (on left) about the age he was transporting + family.

Uncle Leonard, Dad, Uncle Richard, all grown up

Need more to wet your whistle? Thursday May 29, The Academy of Science hosts Chemical Reactions Nightlife, including an 8 PM lecture with the author of Proof: The Science of Booze, a hands on look at fermentation and beer making, and a beer goggle view into the effects of alcohol on the brain.