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Big Brother is watching, not buying

Brief by Central Staff

Prohibition – November 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Within living memory, Big Brother might have picked up a six-pack for Little Brother if Little Brother wasn’t of age. Now Big Brother is watching in Leadville.

It’s called “Operation Stop.”

Thirteen shops that sell take-out alcohol were able to install or upgrade their surveillance cameras, thanks to a grant from the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.

And, all alcohol sold in Lake County will be marked to identify where it was purchased.

Thus, when the police find a bottle in juvenile hands, they can identify the source, then go play the relevant surveillance tapes to find out who purchased the liquor.

Times have changed. During state and federal Prohibition (1916-1933), Leadville led the state in the number of “medicinal alcohol” permits issued, and old-timers have told us that “Leadville Blue,” distilled among the mines and mills, was a preferred brand of moonshine.

It was so popular that it was exported to Denver. As the story goes, one or more five-gallon barrels of moonshine went into the water tank of the tender of the narrow-gauge locomotive just before the daily Colorado & Southern train pulled out of Leadville.

The train wound over Frémont Pass to Frisco and Breckenridge, then over Boreas Pass to Como, and eventually down the South Platte toward Denver.

Somewhere southwest of Littleton, in what was then farm and ranch country, a wagon would meet the train at an isolated crossing. The kegs were fished out of the tender, the crewmen picked up a little extra cash, and some Denver thirsts were quenched.