Moonshine flap at Christiansburg High School

Moonshiner Tim Smith and his now-legal (in some states) product.
Moonshiner Tim Smith and his now-legal (in some states) product.

Another controversy over a television “reality” show, this one hitting close to home.

The girls’ head basketball coach at Christiansburg High School resigned Wednesday and the Montgomery County Public School system fired his assistant over the purchase of a souvenir bottle of legal moonshine tied to a reality TV show during a school-sponsored trip for the team to play in a South Carolina invitational tournament.

School officials told Dallas St. Clair to resign or be fired.  He quit Wednesday.  Assistant Pete Hudson was fired by mail on Thursday.  The letter, written on Jan. 7, said Hudson “was no longer employed” by the high school.

Hudaon and his wife, Missy, apparently are fans of the Discovery Channel “reality” show “Moonshiners,” so they decided to stop on the way home from  the tournament to buy a legal souvenir bottle of show star Tim Smith’s “Climax” moonshine from a liquor store in in South Carolina.

The store was found at a shopping center along the road, which also included a discount store where some team members shopped by Hudson and his wife went into the liquor store and bought the bottle of “Climax,” which Smith calls “the drink of defiance” on his show.  His shine is now sold legally in some states.  Virginia sells “legal” shine in its ABC stores, including the product of legendary Junior Johnson, but “Climas” is not yet on the shelves in the Old Dominion.

The Hudsons put the bottle of moonshine in the trunk of their car, driven by Missy Hudson.  She was following a two vans carrying the players driven by St. Clair and Hudson.

Montgomery County school officials won’t comment on the case and cited a section of the county’s coaches handbook which says:

While supervising students, set a good example of conduct by refraining from using tobacco products, alcohol, or inappropriate language while at and away from school and by acting in a professional manner.

Some Chistiansburg High School basketball parents apparently felt that because the girls on the team knew that the stop was made to purchase the bottle of moonshine, it set a bad example for the teenagers and violated the rule.

Team Captain Tara McCoy told The Roanoke Times that she and other team members knew the Hudsons were going into the liquor store to buy the moonshine but said the liquor was never seen or in the presence of players.

McCoy said head coach St. Clair also knew about the stop and told the players about it but added that “they did no harm.  They didn’t drink.  We didn’t drink and the alcohol was not in our cars.”

Some school officials, however, felt that even stopping to buy booze on a school trip was inappropriate and required action.

St. Clair and Hudson were suspended last Friday and a scheduled game with Christiansburg was postponed.

The firings has sparked a lot of debate in and around Christiansburg with some saying the action was not justified because the trip was paid for by supporters of the team and not the school system and others saying the coaches showed bad judgment by stopping at a liquor store and deserved punishment for poor judgment.

“Climax,” the name of the shine, comes from Climax, Virginia, hometown of Smith’s hometown and, according to legend, where he used to make the illegal hooch.

The fact that the reality show glorifies the illegal and tawdry past of moonshining, which is also part of Floyd County’s history, is what upset some parents and school officials.  They feel that stopping to buy a bottle of shine, even a legal one, was not something a high school coach should do on a school trip.

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11 thoughts on “Moonshine flap at Christiansburg High School”

  1. The bottle wasn’t opened, was it? It was kept in the trunk of the car, out of sight and easy reach. They didn’t drink it while working with the kids, did they? It was legally purchased, and not flaunted and displayed as “Look, a bottle of hooch”. The school should have done nothing in this case, and now they better hope that lawyers don’t get involved because it could end up costing them a bundle.

  2. The problem Al was a case of extremely poor judgment by the head coach and his assistant. When they made the decision to stop for a visit to a liquor store during the return home from a school athletic trip and the kids were told the reason for the stop and the assistant coach and his wife went into a liquor store in full view of the kids, that was (1) a violation of the rule regarding alcohol while supervising student athletes and (2) a stupid mistake on their part because it provided an inferred acceptance of the use of alcohol by coaches who are often considered role models by their athletes.

    It didn’t matter is the bottle was visible, opened or drank from. It was the action itself that was a mistake and one where the school system was well within its rights to exert disciplinary action against the coaches. I’ve talked to a number of school officials, lawyers and school board members since this incident and they are in general agreement that the coaches should not have stopped at a liquor store while transporting students. If the assistant coach and his wife wanted a souvenir bottle of moonshine, she could have gone out and bought it while they were at the tournament, not in the presence of students and stored it in her car. If she had done that and not even mentioned it to the students there would not be a problem.

    The legal counsels I have talked to say there might some some question about the severity of the actions taken by the Montgomery County Public School System but they have the right to discipline their employees for breaking the rules and dismissal is well within those rights. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for either coach to “cash in” on the firings.

  3. So “School Officials” believe that adults should sneak about and hide when buying a legal product that adults consume? And that teenagers can’t cope with an adult buying alcohol? Responsible adults, responsibly managing alcohol use would have been a good lesson for the kids. But this kind of dumb is why good people do not go into the teaching profession – the idiots are running the school system.

  4. Sorry, I have to disagree. Purchasing alcohol, legal or illegal, in front of of those underage and whom those adults are responsible for while returning from a school function is, I’m afraid, the real idiocy here. Whether the punishment was appropriate for the bad judgment shown by both the head and assistant coaches is subject to debate but some punishment was, I believe, appropriate.

  5. A question that has been asked a lot. Is this trip a “school sponsored trip”? It was said that the school didn’t provide anything for this trip (transportation, money, food, etc…). So with that being said would this trip then be classified as a club team since the funding came from a private booster club?

    • Although expenses for the trip were paid by boosters, participation in the tournament had to be approved by the Montgomery County School system and the coaches and team were at the tournament as representatives of the school. MCPS considered it a school function. The coaches were functioning as employees of the school and the team was playing in a scheduled tournament. Using the excuse that “this wasn’t a school function” is, in my opinion, a lame excuse for the stupidity displayed by both the heard and assistant coaches.

  6. I am a parent of one of the girls on the team and there was no school van used. The two vans that were used was the head coaches personal van & a parent of one of the girls’. I don’t feel they did anything wrong. The punishment didn’t fit what actually happened. It is no different than coaches taking players to a restaurant that sold alcohol or bowling alley in which alcohol is present. The coaches did nothing illegal. According to their policy Code 9, almost every coach in the MCPS is breaking their policy (aka tobacco use around kids & cursing). I would be curious to see if they enforce their own policy toward other coaches.

    Also you keep saying head coach & assistant coach used bad judgement. What did the head coach do? What did the assistant coach do? The assistant didn’t purchase the alcohol. He walked into the store with his wife. The wife purchased the alcohol not him..
    How is that any different that walking into a grocery store & the spouse buying alcohol?

    • The head coach approved the stop and told the girls that they were stopping to by a bottle of alcohol. The assistant coach went into the liquor store with his wife to make the purchase with some members of the team in one van watching them enter the store.

      If the wife had gone in on her own, it might not have caused a problem but the coach taking the action in front of students was, the school system felt, a violation of the rules. As noted earlier, the whole problem could have been avoided if the wife of the assistant coach, with or without her husband, had simply gone out in her car and bought the bottle without students along.

      By making a special stop on a trip returning from a school function it raised questions about the judgment of both coaches. The coaches were on a school trip involving a school team and should, the opinion of the school board and their legal counsel, crossed the line by making a special stop on that trip to buy alcohol.

      As said before, my opinion of that the coaches deserved some discipline for a lapse in judgment. I’m not sure dismissal was the answer but every legal counsel I have asked about the matter said the school system was within its purview to dismiss the coaches.

      The problem here, at least from my point of view, is one of perception. On a trip involving students, a teacher or coach stopping at a liquor store while transporting those students was bad judgment by someone who could be perceived as a role model by a young, impressionable teenagers.

      Listing one of the vans as a school vehicle was a mistake. It has been corrected. My apologies.

  7. Doug Thompson, thou dost protest too much. Are you on MCPS’s payroll?
    Judging by the Roanoke Times comments section, and the section above (minus your unwavering defense of admin), you are in the minority…by a factor of several hundred.

    BS country fundamentalists have ruined the career of two caring individuals. With all the horrible teachers out there, and coaches who could care less, they took away two who deeply cared and made a real difference. Did this have to happen? Should this have ever made it beyond a closed door meeting with the principal? HECK NO. The problem is that either the administration is incompetent and needs to be replaced, OR, there is a still-unnamed party tugging at their strings. They should have internally disciplined them, and if some moron wanted to go to the paper, then let the court of public opinion decide. Public shaming due to overreaction of zealots can go a long long way.
    Instead, we have only the principal to look at and blame. Well, he or she should hear it: You stink at life my friend.

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