Moonshine Beat: Test of One's Tolerance
Foley, Bill, The Florida Times Union
The 'shiners were on the run by 1931.
North Florida's bootleggers reeled under onslaught from
heavy-handed Sheriff W.B. Cahoon.
Economic insecurity dogged the industry. Prohibition twisted in
the wind. Near-guerrilla war dwindled to a mop-up operation.
The turning tide was tipped those less politically correct
times when the Jacksonville Journal handed the moonshine beat to
a lady reporter.
Not that May McCormick took a backseat to anybody.
McCormick was one in a series of dashing and daring Jacksonville
Journal distaff reporters, front-line news-hens disabused of the
notion the woman's place was on the society page.
McCormick made her name as an aviation writer. Back when flying
an airplane was sort of like going into outer space, May
McCormick learned how to fly and wrote about it. She became a
well-known and respected figure in aviation circles -- but that
is another story.
This is about May McCormick, 'shine reporter.
She went into the boondocks the spring of 1931, and she told it
like she saw it, which was not good for the consumer.
Everybody knew there were degrees of moonshine, from the
five-star Mandarin squeezings to Springfield radiator rotgut.
McCormick's first encounter was with Westside ditch-dew.
"If you saw moonshine in the sunshine, like I saw it, you would
not drink it, even in the moonshine," McCormick told Journal
"Flies, ants, swarms of them; hogs, droves of them (sic . . .
Hey, she was an aviation writer, not a pig writer) . . .
"Dirty water, dirt, uncleanliness of every sort!" she wrote,
with manifold distaste at a world in which white wine was not an
"Hidden away in a thick underbrush, so thick the briars catch
at your clothing, snag your skin, spoil your disposition, sits
beside a pool of almost stagnant water the still, old and worn
with long usage. …