It was snowing outside before author Terry Shaffer started his presentation at an East Toledo Club luncheon, and at first it looked like nobody would show up because of the weather.
Shaffer was there to talk about his 146-page book, Illegal Gambling Clubs of Toledo: The Chips, The Dice, The Places and Faces.
By the time he had finished, the room was full, and these were not the same East Toledo members that usually show up for these monthly luncheons.
Many had family ties to former east side illegal gambling houses like the Bon Aire Supper Club, Social Club 51, the El Rancho Ballroom, the Terminal Social Club (aka Dugan’s), and Ted Stone’s Café — all located along the Woodville Road strip from East Toledo to as far east as present-day Millbury.
In his research, Shaffer discovered The Bon Aire Supper Club, 2188 Woodville Road, which was owned by Joseph Urbaytis and Edward “Big Edge” Wojnarowski, alias Wagner, opening in 1943. We know the location today as the Woodville Army/Navy Surplus Store, but the Bon Aire building is gone.
Jimmy Dugan took over in 1946 and changed its name to Terminal Social Club (aka Dugan’s). The craps table attendant at first was Stanley “Jerry” Marinski and then Dugan in 1946.
Games at the Bon Aire included craps and poker, but it all came to an end after a raid and murder in November, 1951.
Shaffer’s presentation drew the attention of Rose Murphy (Olmstead), 58, who grew up at Dugan’s.
Her 68-year-old sister Caroline O’Donnell, who was snowed in at her home in Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, Massachusetts last week, was about 15-years-old when Dugan’s was in its heyday. Rose, who was about 5-years-old and remembers little, and Caroline say their mother was the cook at Dugan’s and their father worked the craps tables.
“She was there when everything was going down. I lived there, but it was afterwards, because I was born in ’55. She was there during the heyday,” Rose said.
Caroline (pen name Caroline Shannon Davenport), 30 years ago wrote a 300-plus page novel based on her childhood growing up at Dugan’s, but it was never published.
“There were still people alive and I couldn’t figure out how to do it in a way to make it fiction,” Caroline said. “I didn’t want anybody getting hurt by it. So, I just couldn’t figure how to make it work. I actually wrote the book from the voice and the eyes of a child and told the whole story that way.
“I couldn’t make it a memoir because, for one thing, James Dugan, and my step-father, Rose’s father, ran the gambling casino on Woodville Road. Jimmy, ‘Big Jim’ Dugan’s son, and I were at that time the two only children in the house. We were exactly one month apart and we were raised together. So, the whole story revolves around my parents and Jimmy’s parents.”
Now, with everyone involved in the gambling community gone, Caroline plans to get the novel published.
|Terry Shaffer, author of Illegal Gambling Clubs of Toledo: The
Chips, The Dice, Tha Places and Faces, during his presentation
to the East Toledo Club at the East Toledo Senior Center at
Navarre Park. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)
Running rum for Licavoli
East Toledo lifelong resident Linda Hendricks says her great uncle ran rum, possibly for Thomas “Yonnie” Licavoli, who operated the infamous Purple Gang that also dabbled in illegal gambling.
“I love history and that’s the kind of stuff that I’m interested in. As I was listening to him talk and stuff, my thing was, ‘How are things interconnected? Like how, did Licavoli get his start and why did he come to Toledo?’” Hendricks said.
“I just had an interest in that because of my great uncle. The family research that I’ve done and the stories that I heard from my mom, and my grandpa, and my Great Aunt Stella, who was our family historian, so I just kind of went to see what it was about. I take pieces of information from all sources and try to connect the dots and stuff,” Hendricks continued.
“I honestly think most people do not know the history of this area. You see street names and names on buildings and stuff, and you’re like, ‘OK, does this mean anything? Why did they name streets after people?”
Hendricks knows her great uncle’s name, but like many families, doesn’t want to make it public. She and her sister recently began researching his background, and they came across his criminal record.
She knew him during his later years, when he had mellowed.
“I was a little girl when he died. I just remember the kind of person he was. He and my mom were close, and we’d go over to Murphy’s and we’d go over to get lunch or breakfast, and he always told us we could have whatever we wanted,” Hendricks said.
“I just remember getting all the bad stuff that my mom wouldn’t want us to have. He was a really cool person and growing up, we heard the stories, but they weren’t real pronounced. I don’t think we really knew the depth of him, because he was an older man then, so it was kind of like a passing story here and there.”
(Illegal Gambling Clubs of Toledo: The Chips, The Dice, The Places and Faces is published by Happy Chipper Publishing, Toledo, and can be purchased at the Toledo Police Museum, HappyChipper.com, and Amazon.com for $22.95.)