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Family pets get a taste of wine during Prohibition

Minnie and Berman Kahn, with their dog, Lindy,

Minnie and Berman Kahn, with their dog, Lindy, who got drunk after lapping up a good amount of homemade wine. Credit: Siegelman family

When Grandma and Grandpa bought their house in Valley Stream, it was their first venture into suburbia. They were city folk, and I have never figured out what prompted their move from Manhattan to the "sticks."It was 1925, and Long Island was mostly potato farms. Their two teenage daughters were not thrilled to be dumped into the middle of nowhere. By 1927, two of Grandma's sisters had moved into the village.

They noticed that there were wild cherry trees growing everywhere, and they persuaded Grandma to go cherry picking with them. It was a long, hot, arduous job, but, at the end of the day, they had a dozen baskets of the ripe fruit. Now they started crushing and cooking the cherries, and turning them into wine. I don't know where these novices learned how to make wine, and the fact that alcohol was illegal never entered their minds. Everyone was exhausted by the time they finally finished. The wine was strained and carefully poured into a large, wooden barrel, covered with cheesecloth and placed in the dark basement.

In their new household was a large white, fluffy cat and a big collie dog named Lindy (named after the then-current American hero Charles Lindbergh). It didn't occur to anyone to be concerned about the animals.

Big mistake.

Some time later, the cat and dog wandered into the cellar. Apparently, the cat jumped up onto the wine barrel and fell in, the barrel tumbled over, and the dog drank the wine that oozed all over the basement floor. The family spent the next few days cleaning up the mess. It took three people to hold down the sticky cat, while they worked furiously to bathe her, and the dog was too drunk to stand up. Every time he tried, his legs slipped out from under him. Lindy finally crawled under the big kitchen stove and refused to come out.

Prohibition was still in effect, but most citizens never took this law seriously. For a while Grandpa Berman continued to brew his own beer, but Grandma Minnie never ever made any more wine.

Joanne Siegelman,


Our next-door neighbors, the Spiess family, are angels. Since we moved to Daleview Avenue over 20 years ago, they have fed our cats, baby-sat our two girls, dealt with our false alarms involving police while we were vacationing.

In the past and just recently, again and again and again this past winter, they dug us out from the once-beautiful snowfalls that look infinitely better while inside sipping hot cocoa than actually having to shovel and precariously ice skate at the same time.

Yes, we hear of kind deeds and random acts of goodness among strangers. Yes, there are neighbors from whom we would not hesitate to borrow a cup of sugar or two eggs. But there is an indefinable category for our neighbors, one that includes those who, in a world where there would be no praise or blame, would do the good thing “just because,” and who live their lives with the intent of making the world a better place for those around them.

We are so lucky that they are our neighbors, and the first thing that I would like to do if I had winning lottery tickets, would be to put one in their mailbox so that they, too, could share in the jackpot. We already have won the jackpot, because they live next door.
Our hearts runneth over in gratitude and to the Spiess family we say, thank you for all the years you have helped us shovel out and snow plow us out. We hope the sun shines as brightly as your family does each day.

Elizabeth Katz,

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