Flasks in Stockings of Flappers at Exclusive School Brings Arrest of Church Organist as Rum Seller

The Washington Times/July 23, 1922

Gay Girl Graduate, Present at Party, Turns Dry Deputy

 Wife of Church Organist Held in Raid Denies Charges of Implication, and Declares Girl Sown as Sleuth was “Blind Drunk” When She Tried to Buy Illicit Spirits


“FLAPPER FLASKS,” mounted in silver and gold and each capable of containing a gill of gin, inspired an investigation of bootlegging in exclusive Bradford Academy that is producing dramatic results. Here are a few of the developments already on record:

A girl graduate, sworn in as a prohibition enforcement officer, caused the arrest of the supervisor of music and church organist in Haverhill as a seller of liquor to flapper students. The supervisor’s wife was involved in the charges and the supervisor’s home was raided by a liquor squad, led by a woman. Evidence was brought out that the girl students staged hilarious “rum parties” nightly in the historic academy and the “flapper flasks” were declared to be a scandal of the campus.

The church organist’s wife, denying the charges, asserts that the pretty volunteer sleuth was “blind drunk” when she tried to buy the illicit spirit. The raid was made after Miss Katherine Durfee, graduate student, who lives at the Brookline home of Prohibition Enforcement Director James P. Roberts, told him that “silk stocking flask parties” were events of public discussion on the campus and that she knew where .the “booze was bought.” Chief Roberta had her sworn in as a dry agent, gave her a flask and the girl went after the evidence like a trained sleuth. At the home of the Supervisor of Music and Church Organist Herbert W. W. Downes, just across the road from the academy, she charges that Mrs. Downes filled a flask for her for $2.


Dry agents then raided the Downes home under the leadership of Mrs. Hannah Brigham, the first woman officer to head a raiding party, and found a small quantity of liquor, they assert, and arrested Downes. The raid was a acandal in the college, which is the oldest women’s educational institution in New England, if not the country. Mr. Downes denied ownership of the liquor, and even more vigorously denied selling any. United States Commissioner Hayes refused to issue a warrant or hold Mr. Downes, terming him a victim of circumstances.

The raid, Miss Durfee said, who is now teaching rhythmic expression at the Noyes School, was planned in the Roberts home, at No. 11 Park Street, Brookline. The return of alumnae for commencement exercises caused the college authorities to fear a repetition of the flask parties that had become common gossip, according to the girl raider, in the institution.. She decided to protect the fair name of the academy, she said, and so volunteered to Chief Roberts to get the evidence.


Here is Miss Durfee’s own story of the scandal: “I went to Mr. Roberts’ office in Chauncey street and was sworn in as a special deputy. I was a prohibition officer for just one night. And one appearance in that role was quite enough.

“Other officers were there and I had to raise my right hand and swear. Then Mr. Roberts gave me a flask and I went back to the reunion of my class, which was being held through commencement week.”

Incidentally, the flask which Miss Durfee used in collecting the evidence was the same vessel captured by former Dry Agent Harold B. Wilson in his famous hotel raid in Springfield last New Year Eve. With the flask snugly reposing where flappers usually carry their containers,  Miss Durfee was ready for the big adventure, and shortly after midnight Tuesday she started out.

She told the other alumnae and students as she was slipping out of the house to wait up for her, as there might be “something good and exciting.”

Brave in a sport skirt and knitted sweater, with her bobbed hair flapping in the night wind, Katherine, girlish of figure, clear of complexion and guileless of manner, the young deputy looked for all the world like any of the girls attending the academy. She went on with the tale of her adventures:

“I rang the bell at Mrs. Downes’ house and Mrs. Downes opened the door. Then I pulled out the silver flask and asked her if she would fill it for me.


“I pretended to be very much afraid of the college authorities and told her that she must not let any of the faculty know about it, for it would get me in trouble.

“ ‘That’s all right,’ Mrs. Downes told me. ‘It would mean a great deal more trouble for me than for you if this sort of thing was let out.’

“We were standing in the hallway near the door and then we moved out toward the kitchen. Mrs. Downes asked me if I belonged to the college.

“ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘we are having a little party over there and we just want a little more to finish up with.’”


“Mrs. Downes said that she was afraid that she hadn’t a drop in the house, but that if I had given her a little notice, she would have had some there for me.

“ ‘Oh. that’s too bad,’ I said, and then she said that she could give me some witch hazel. “ ‘That won’t do at all,’ I told her. ‘Haven’t you any boose?’

“Then she said that she could give me a little drop that she had, about so much, she said, measuring about an inch and she said it was in the medicine closet.

“Mrs. Dowries went out to the back, and in a few minutes returned with the flask full to the top.”

With the alleged evidence returned to its traditional place in safekeeping, Katherine said she still played the part of a frightened student. She explained to the woman, she said, that she was afraid, and asked her to go to the door and see if the coast was clear for a quick, clean get-away.

Then went on Katherine:

“Mrs. Downes went to the door and looked out and beckoned to me that everything was all right. I said good-night to her and went back to the house where the other girls were waiting up for me in keen anticipation. The filling of the flask cost me $2.

“Right here I want to say that I didn’t taste a drop of the hard stuff. I wouldn’t touch it for all the world. I just hate it.”

Tears welled in the eyes of the brave sleuth at the thought, and then she told of the grief she felt for the girls, younger even than she, who she said had been staging drinking bouts at the college she loved so well, making its fair name a mockery.


Then Katherine laughed at the reception which she said her classmates gave her when she returned triumphant with the full flsak to them. She continued the narrative with a smile:

“I showed them what I had got and they all crowded around and clapped their hands, but I wouldn’t let them touch it, not a drop, for I knew it had to go straight to Mr. Roberts, my chief, the prohibition enforcement director.

“That night I locked the flask in my bag and hid it under the bed, and then next day, commencement day, I brought it into Mr. Robert’s office.

“I didn’t get a chance to tell Miss Marlon Coates, principal of the academy, as she was busy with the other members of the faculty on the platform.

“But before I went over to get the stuff I told Miss Coates that I had been selected, and she said:

“ ‘Why Katherine! You, of all girls!’ ”

Ransome Pingree, a trustee of the academy and attorney for the institution, is directing the inside investigation of the situation which has brought the traditions and morals of the academy into question in the courts—and the press—and he is determined to learn who gave the first tip to the federal authorities.

The trustees are firm in their insistence that, despite the charges, there has been no drinking in the academy. The tiny silver flasks of liquor which the students are reported to have carried in their stockings never existed, or if they did, the school authorities never before heard of. much less saw them.


For Mr. Pingree, trustee and lawyer, declared:

“It is all news to me. I was dumbfounded when I picked up the papers and saw that Mr. Downes had been arrested, and that rumor had it that our girls were staging wild parties.

“I am certain that the rumors are not true. We are very careful with the girls in our school.

“They are not allowed out to leave Haverhill without proper chaperones. They are not allowed to mingle with the residents of Bradford. They are not allowed to go to tea houses that are not approved by the school officials.

“It stands to reason that they would not have been permitted to go to the house of Mr. Downes if we thought there was anything wrong going on there.”

Miss Marion Coates, principal of the academy, was indignant over the affair and made no effort to conceal that emotion, but, aside from issuing a general denial, she merely referred all questions to Mr. Pingree. After being freed by United States Commissioner Hayes, in Boston. Mr. Downes hurried home to his wife, who was heartbroken over the raid on her home and the arrest of her husband. To a ‘reporter Mr. Downes declared:

“The case is simply one of spite. I am glad that it is over, and I hope that the person or persons who started the rumor are satisfied. It caused me a lot of unhappiness and unpleasant notoriety for a few hours, but I have not lost anything by it. My position in the schools has not been affected. The school officials telephoned me that they had implicit faith in me.”


Mrs. Downes said that she firmly believed an enemy had tipped off the Federal officers falsely and brought about the obnoxious raid and arrest for the sake of revenge. She asserted that she had a number of enemies in Bradford and Haverhill who might be expected to do such a thing, and she added sharply:

“The thing that I cannot understand is why Miss Katharine Durfee should play such a prominent part in this affair. Why, that girt was blind drunk when she came here and tried to get liquor.

“It is possible that she night have got mad because she could not get any and then told the officers.”

And Mr. Downes declared, with emphasis:

“Spite work and jealousy! Just because my wife is the best cook in Bradford, and entertains most of the wealthy parents of students on commencement day!”

And Miss Durfee, half smiling, half tearful, repeats:

“I did it for the honor of the old school!”

And—oh, but the president, principal, faculty and students are glad that the school year is closed at last! When the school reopens there will be more to be said.

(Source: Chronicling America, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1922-07-23/ed-1/seq-18/)