The Whisky Blot
Whiskey Hill by MaryAnn Shank
That’s where my Dad was born: Whiskey Hill. It did perch on a hill, and local history has it that quite a bit of whiskey flowed down the hill into the valley below.
Then Prohibition came along, and the good town fathers (there were no women in government back then) changed the name to “Freedom”, as if somehow partaking of whiskey for so many years actually got you to Freedom. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t.
The road to Whiskey Hill is still there. It is a narrow path, cutting off of Freedom Boulevard, hardly wide enough for one car. I can only imagine old Model T’s puffing their way up the hill to grab a keg of that stuff, whatever it was. If you didn’t know the road was there, odds are you would never see it behind the massive oak trees and overgrown poison oak.
My father’s cousin was the last of the family to still live on Whiskey Hill. He lived right across the Presbyterian Church that spewed its bellowing out over the whole area on Sunday mornings. Everyone congregated at that Church, there wasn’t much else to do on Sunday mornings on Whiskey Hill. By the time my father’s family left, a new access road to Freedom had been built, and a freeway connected all of central California, with the town center relocated to the respectable valley below.
I became the mostly respectable librarian in Freedom. One day at lunch I sat at a counter next to a young man who was wandering the West. His eyes truly glowed as he told me how he took the freeway exit labeled “Airport Blvd/ Freedom.” He didn’t find an airport – that was on a different road entirely – and although he found Freedom, Whiskey Hill would have eluded him but for the happenstance meeting of a mostly respectable friend.
MaryAnn Shank spent much of her life in the shadow of Whiskey Hill. She wrote of her unexpected adventures in the Somali Peace Corps in the historical novel "Mystical Land of Myrrh". Her poetry has appeared in a number of publications, and she is presently engaged in bringing to life the story of another historical figure. Find her at http://mysticallandofmyrrh.com.
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