Born in Sicily, Emilio Picariello came to Canada in 1909. He moved to British Columbia and was soon operating several businesses including a cigar factory and ice cream parlours. Picariello earned the nickname “Bottle King;” if people could not afford to pay in cash, he accepted bottles in payment. He eventually developed a monopoly on empty bottles, making money by selling the bottles to local bottlers.
Picariello moved to the Crowsnest Pass a few years later, where he became a respected and wealthy citizen. He donated generously to the war effort and gave money to striking miners. He was even elected an alderman in Blairmore.
In 1916, when prohibition started in Alberta, Picariello figured out how to profit from it, by transporting alcohol from Fernie into Alberta.
It all went wrong in September 1922. On September 21, Constable Stephen (Steve) Lawson, stationed at Coleman, radioed Blairmore that Picariello was on the way. When the police in Blairmore pulled Emilio Picariello over, he honked his horn to warn his son, Steve Picariello, and give him the notice to race back to British Columbia. As Steve Picariello raced west, Lawson was notified to be on the lookout for him. As Steve Picariello’s car approached Lawson, Lawson fired a warning shot into the air. When the car didn’t stop, he fired at Steve Picariello’s car, hitting him in the hand .
Emilio Picariello received incorrect information that Lawson had shot his son, seriously wounding and perhaps even killing him. Emilio Picariello, accompanied by Florence Lassandro, confronted Lawson.
The versions vary but Constable Lawson was shot. To this day it has never been definitely proved if he was shot by Picariello or Lassandro. Whatever the truth, both of them were arrested, tried, found guilty and executed on 22 May 1923.
Discover the true stories behind the story of Emilio Picariello at the Curator Presents…, the opening of the exhibit The Rise and Fall of Emilio Picariello on Mon OCT 02 from 2–3 pm.