Tour Locations | Unholy Toledo Tour: Gambling and Gangsters in the Glass City
The End of the Unholy Toledo Era
Turn left up ahead onto La Grange Street. We're going to head back toward downtown Toledo.
Continue down LaGrange and turn right on the Greenbelt Parkway to head back downtown.
As we drive, I'll fill you in on the end of the Unholy Toledo era.
Gambling in Toledo began to wane after the suicide of an out of work advertising executive from Detroit. The story carried by the Wednesday, Jan. 5th, 1944, edition of The Blade and subsequent papers all carried the same message: "George D. Wilcox a Detroit advertising executive, was found dead, apparently of suicide, in a downtown hotel room shortly after 2 p.m. after having written several prominent businessmen that he intended taking his life as the last act in a lost fight against gambling in Toledo."
Wilcox was an unemployed advertising executive for McCann & Erickson. His wife and two children resided in Birmingham, Michigan, and apparently were unaware of his gambling debts. Wilcox's six-page suicide letter, damning Toledo's gambling community, had the desired impact. Here are a few quotes:
"I am giving my life today for a cause worthy of your attention and relentless campaigning to rid this section of the country of gambling racketeers who have preyed upon the weaknesses of such persons as myself and who are destroying whole families," Wilcox wrote to The Blade.
"After writing the foregoing I took a powerful sleeping dose last night that I might gather some strength ... Time is running out for me. Will the Blade crusade over my dead body and see that some justice comes out of my sacrifice?
"I hate to die branded as a coward and a weakling. God knows I have prayed for my own healing in time to avoid it. But now I can only think of the doing and, in the present calm, I am unafraid."
Less than a week after Wilcox took his life, repeated raids were ordered on the Club Devon and the Webster. Judge John Q. Carey granted Prosecutor Joel Rhinefort's petition restraining Benny Aronoff and 26 of his associates from using the Club Devon for gambling purposes.
Not satisfied with just Aronoff and the Club Devon, Judge Carey granted similar injunctions against Ed Warnke, Joe Morrissey, Harry Levine, and E.R. Rhinehardt the alleged operators of the Academy Club. By the end of the month safety director and special deputy, Ed DeAngelo, was sworn in by the Clerk of Courts as receiver for the Academy Club and the Club Devon.
The Lucas County Grand Jury led by DeAngelo returned indictments of 12 counts each against Benny Aronoff, Joe Aronoff, Al Schaub, Joe Fretti, Joe Morrissey, Pat Morrissey, and 19 other defendants. With that, gambling did not totally disappear, but it did fade away as an open recreational option in Toledo and the Unholy Toledo era came to an end.
That concludes our tour. I hope you enjoyed your time learning more about Toledo! If you would like to learn more about our local history and try a few other tours, visit my site at www.holytoledohistory.com. In the meantime, I'd appreciate it if you would leave a rating after we finish, it will help others find this tour and take a ride back to the Unholy Toledo era.