Prohibition—The Days of Wine and Holy Water

by Mary Hill

During the 1920s, Prohibition forced the closing of all saloons in Indiana, including those in Haughville, a section of town on the west side of Indianapolis. Haughville was home to many Slovenian immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The hardworking Slovenian American men no longer had a place to quench their thirst after working all day in the insufferable heat of the Malleable Castings Company. The only way to obtain alcohol was to make it or to buy it from a bootlegger. Some Slovenians now made wine in the privacy of their homes. 

Louis Fon, a Slovenian American, owned a small grocery store attached to the front of his house at 740 North Warman Avenue. His sister-in-law made wine for family consumption and often supplied Louis with a stash or two.

One Sunday afternoon, while holding a wake for their nine-year-old son, Louis and his wife, Katherine, offered glasses of homemade wine to their guests. The next day, one of their “friends” reported them to the police. Louis soon heard a knock at their door. Upon opening the door, he was confronted by two police officers. They were here to inspect Louis’s house and store.

After finding nothing illegal in the store, the officers proceeded to search the house. When asked if there was any alcohol in the house, Katherine replied, “Here, take this!” It was a bottle of holy water. The police officers were satisfied that the Fons were telling the truth. They accepted the explanation, apologized, and left. Little did they know there was an undiscovered trap door beneath the kitchen floor. That's where Louis stashed the wine. Louis and Katherine breathed a sigh of relief but were saddened by the betrayal of one of their friends.

Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and Slovenian American workers in Haughville could now legally enjoy a cold beer after a hard day’s work. Turk's Tavern and Pee Wee's were their favorite spots. Pee Wee's offered free Slovenian stew with the purchase of drinks. Turk's Tavern was famous for serving the best chicken dinners in town for 34 cents!