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The Horace Wild Story
Kidnapped by Rumrunners

condensed from The Rumrunners – A Prohibition Scrapbook, by C.H. (Marty) Gervais

When Horace Wild, a Border Cities Star photographer, took his son with him on assignment to document rumrunners in action, he got a lot more than he bargained for.

Rumrunners were accustomed to being chased by United States patrol boats, being fired upon with “tommies,” battling off hijackers – but not having their work documented by news photographers who wanted to blaze their faces across the provincial dailies.
Angus Munro was right when he said newspaper photographers from that era were noted “for their sheer crust in getting the pictures” they wanted. This was particularly true in the case of Horace Wild, a Border Cities Star employee, who took his son, Noel, with him on assignment to photograph rumrunners in action. Noel Wild recalls those events of June 29, 1929 vividly:

Horace Wild’s kidnapping by American rumrunners made the front page of The Border Cities Stars in 1929.

“In 1929, the Border Cities Star decided to do a feature on this rum running business. A friend of the paper had a big speedboat on Riverside Drive. My dad, two reporters and I went to Amherstburg where we knew there was some running going on from the dock.

It was a nice, calm day. We cruised back and forth along the river. There were cases of the stuff piled up on the docks and men loading the boats to take it across the border.

When they saw was us taking photographs they got really upset, so we turned around and tried to get away. They loaded about four carloads of fellows and others got into a couple of boats to give us chase, but their boats weren’t as fast as ours.

But the cars had followed the road along from Amherstburg. We decided to let them catch the boat, pulled over just about where Calverts (Seagram’s) is today, put in at the point and jumped off. My dad and I grabbed our cameras and ducked into the woods.

But these boys weren’t so dumb. They came along the road and caught sight of us. They wheeled around and came back to get us. We tried running but they grabbed dad and me and smashed his cameras. They didn’t find the film dad had hidden but the smashed everything else.

They took my father back to Amherstburg. They left me because I was only sixteen years old. I informed the Provincials (police) when they came along the highway a little later.

They took my father, bound him in chains and were going to throw him in the river. These kidnappers weren’t from Amherstburg; they were from the States…there must have been 40 of these guys.

The Provincials managed to stop them from doing away with dad. They got there just in time apparently. Dad was a little upset … I know he was, because he told me afterwards. And of course the Star really blew up the story about him being kidnapped by rum runners.

In those days these were regular export docks we were on. They were allowed to export out there…well they were supposed to be exporting the liquor to South America or to Europe or somewhere…but not to Detroit. But we were photographing all these guys…you could see every one of them in our pictures. If those had appeared in the paper, every cop in the States would have been after them – that’s why they came after us.

I managed to get a few pictures out, but they didn’t use any of them. In those days we were using the Speed Graphics. They were awfully heavy to carry, but we were used to them, and besides, that’s all we had in those days.”

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