- Historic Sites
What Happened In Hinton
Back in Prohibition days, the citizens of a West Virginia town decided to crack down on bootlegging and prostitution. The author remembers it well.
July/August 1988 | Volume 39, Issue 5
One man who is now a retired druggist got a start in his profession delivering prescriptions to the girls on Front Street. He also delivered perfume, bubble-bath powders, mascara, hair dye, nail polish, mud packs—anything the girls thought might improve their appearance. He claimed that the girls of Front Street bought more of these things than all the rest of the people of the Green-brier Valley put together. These women always sat combing their hair in doorways or windows where they could be seen from the street.
When Prohibition came to Hinton, many people believed it infringed on their personal freedom and liberty, and they just wouldn’t abide by the law. From what I have read, Prohibition paved the way and paid the way for organized crime Be that as it may, I do know that about everybody who was out of work in the 1920s started making moonshine. And Prohibition didn’t help the integrity of our courts or judges. Many times, if a judge found out that an old mountaineer made good whiskey he told the local law officers not to tear up the man’s still too badly. He wanted the officers to confiscate the whiskey and bring it to him
One election year at about this time, the party in office was losing. The alarm went out. There was a madam at Meadow Creek who also furnished girls at Sandstone and Hinton, When she heard of the problem, she approached a leading politician and told him she could swing the election if he would provide two or three touring cars and the proper amount of whiskey. This madam always claimed she won the election by gathering all the fancy women and voting them at several polling places.
A Civil War naval cannon stood on a corner of the courthouse square when World War II began. By 1945 it was gone, donated to the war effort.
A present-day citizen living in Greenbrier County told me not too long ago that for years his job was to haul a carefully selected group of voters from one polling place to another all the way from Talcott to Meadow Creek.
Now all these shenanigans did not go unnoticed by the good and proper citizens of Hinton. The question arose in one of the men’s Sunday school classes: Why couldn’t all these lawbreaking bad people be picked up and expelled from the community? Representatives of three of the town’s churches met in deepest secrecy and pledged their support and money to the cause of cleaning up Hinton. Three ministers were placed on a committee. Then no more was heard about the effort for about a year, and most thought it had been forgotten.
The question arose in one of the men’s Sunday school classes: Why couldn’t all the lawbreaking people be rounded up and expelled from the community?
One day a fine, young, suave businessman arrived in town, looking for a suitable location for a plant or factory that would employ between five hundred and a thousand people. He wanted to look at every available location up and down Greenbrier and New rivers, and in the meantime he wanted to be entertained. Since he spent his money like flowing wine, he had no trouble finding knowledgeable companions and comrades. He dined in some of the best homes in town and some of the worst.
He visited every place in town that sold whiskey by the drink or by the gallon, slept with a different woman every night, and gambled at poker, dice, and slot machines. He was a big tipper. He even had an office with a secretary that the town thought was his real estate headquarters.
Now I had a cousin Joey (he could have been first or forty-second) who was a young man at this time and who knew every loose and sporting woman in the valleys. Knew them by their first and last names. I didn’t care what kind of a character Cousin Joey was. I always had a great time with him, and I could always hit him up for a dime to go to a movie.
One time Cousin Joey ran a footrace against a thoroughbred horse for a hundred yards and won. I didn’t know it at the time, but the owner of the horse and Cousin Joey had this race rigged. They found somebody to bet ten dollars that Cousin Joey couldn’t outrun the horse. The hundred yards were measured very carefully. Then they were off! Cousin Joey was twenty-five feet in front before the horse was in gear. I have never heard such hollering, cussing, and laughing. Every time the horse would start around Cousin Joey, he would throw his arms out and the horse would fall back. The jockey didn’t help things by seesawing the reins. Cousin Joey came in by a nose. I laughed so hard I was crying. The sucker who lost his money wanted to whip Joey and the jockey at first, but later on he said it was worth it just to see the show.