& the border cities
from “The Rumrunners –
a prohibition scrapbook” by C. H. (Marty) Gervais
Diesbourg, a.k.a. King Canada, bootlegged and served bar at his
brother Charlie’s hotel, the Wellington, on the main street
of Belle River. Blaise’s involvement in liquor trafficking
soon brought him into contact with the kingpin of the underworld
– Al Capone. It was then that he adopted the name “King
He became a supplier to The Purple Gang in Detroit and to other
big dealers in the United States. Instead of carrying a weapon,
he carried a tough-minded attitude which seemed to guide him to
was called “King Canada” because that’s how I
wanted to be known in the United States. I gave myself that name
because here in town if the law comes looking for King Canada, well,
nobody’s going to know who that is. The people in town know
me as Blaise Diesbourg but they don’t know King Canada. If
the law comes to me and asks, I say I don’t know. I did this
so the law couldn’t keep track of me and what I was doing.
King and Capone
Capone came to see me at the Mexico Export Dock, and asked if there
was anybody that could handle that stuff for him. And I was the
only one that could. I mean Capone was getting the stuff by boats…but
he wanted the stuff everyday, by plane. I was the only one that
could give ‘em that.
we go in the house of my brother Charlie, in the cellar, and we
talked. There was another fellow with him.
said, “Listen, I am King Canada, and you know you can’t
fool around with me. I know every move in Chicago…every move
says, “What do you think I am? Don’t you think I know
something through the government of what’s going on in Chicago?”
The original Scarface,
Al Capone, king of Chicago gangsters during prohibition
photo: The Rumrunners, by C.H. Gervais
was kind of a tough man…but, oh, he was a good guy, you know.
He was about, oh, I guess five-foot ten or eleven…but smooth.
He was never tough with me. I met him only two times… once
here in Belle River when he came to see me and once more in Chicago
when I went down there with his pilots.
Capone had his own planes…old bombers…each had a pit
long enough to hold twenty-five cases of whisky. At six o’clock
in the morning I’d meet the pilot there in one of the five
Capone would order from the export dock and it would be delivered
to my field. I would load up the plane when it landed…that
was my job. The pilot used to pay me money in a bundle from the
bank. And it was stamped on the back how much it was. I never counted
no money. He would give me the bundle and I’d throw it on
the floor of the car. Never had time to count it. Because I only
had five minutes
to load the plane…300 bottles of whisky.
One time a pilot said, “Capone wants you to come to Chicago.”
So I got in the plane and went to the Sportsman’s Park Racetrack
in Chicago. And Capone was there with his big car. I got in with
him. We had three motorcycles with machine guns, three in the front
and three in the back. And we had nine miles to go to the place
they called the Fort.
Well, the next morning I had to take the plane because one of the
men I had hired was waiting in the field with the load…back
in Belle River.
Everyday I sent a load to Chicago. I never had them land in the
same field. And Capone was a nice fellow. Oh yeah. But they say
that you couldn’t double-cross him, because you’d be
a dead goose.
Anyway, I’m the only one–the King of the Airplanes.
With an increase of police patrols
on the waterways, whisky smugglers took to the skies. Photo: Dossin
Great Lakes Museum
King and The Purple Gang
had a gang in Detroit I used to deal with called The Purple Gang.
They were tough. But they didn’t bother me.
They had a big bar over there, and you knocked at the door, and
a guy would say, “Who do you want to see?”
Well, I knew the guys there, and he’d holler to another fellow
to go get my friend. When my friend came, he’d say, “Oh,
hello, it’s King Canada! Let him in! Let him in!” and
I’d go in and they’d bring champagne…anything
made a lot of money in those days working for The Purple Gang. I
was rich at one time. I had money, but just like that – it
was gone. And you know when you get too big in business –
you become too big as a man – you lose out. I bought an airplane,
paid $12,000 for it.
Above: In August of 1937, Purple Gang
member Harry Millman’s LaSalle Coupe was blown to bits.
The blast killed a valet (who had been sent for the coupe)
outside the 1040 Club in Detroit, a favourite Purple Gang
photo: The Detroit News
Well, this guy form The Purple Gang, he made two trips – I
couldn’t fly myself – and busted it up on the other
side. He landed in the field where it was rough. They busted up
the undercarriage, and set fire to it.
The registration was under my name, so if anything happened, I’d
told them to set fire to it. Get rid of it. I don’t want no
Well, that gang in Detroit says you better buy another one. I load
them up in my field, but the engine wasn’t working right.
He just made it over the fence, and he crashed. Right away he set
fire to it.
The Purple Gang had the pilot…a good pilot, too, most of the
time…but I just wasn’t lucky. Anyway, I lost $24,000,
crashed up two planes, a month apart. Yeah. They were $12,000 a
long arm of the law
Above: police raid and destroy
a speakeasy in Detroit.
photo: Detroit Free Press
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