Sept. 24, 1953: Morals squad leaves nothing to chance
- Blog Post by: Ben Welter
- February 14, 2014 - 7:00 PM
You may be shocked – shocked! – to learn that Minneapolis was not immune to illegal gambling, drinking and exotic dancing in the 1950s. The Police Department’s morals squad was tasked with keeping such activity in check. Acting on a phone tip, Jake Sullivan and D.A. Nelson raided “a modern, two-story house” at 5837 Chicago Av. S. and found five people in the basement standing around the shiny, expensive-looking roulette wheel shown below. All were arrested and booked on gambling charges. “It was just a little social game,” one suspect said. The judge didn’t buy it and fined everyone involved.
Funny thing about this story: It's clear from the quotes and observations, not to mention the photos, that a Minneapolis Tribune reporter and photographer accompanied police on the raid. Dear reader: If police storm your house, feel free at least to tell the ink-stained wretches to wait at the curb.
Whoever filled out the back of this photo for the Minneapolis Tribune identified only Sullivan, left, and Nelson, adding: "Paddy wagon driver unidentified."
Police Seize Roulette Wheel,
Arrest Nine in Gambling Raid
The Minneapolis police morals squad arrested nine persons Wednesday night in a raid on a south Minneapolis roulette game.
Acting on an anonymous telephone tip, four members of the squad went to a modern two-story house at 5873 Chicago avenue about 10 p.m.
After identifying themselves as police, they were admitted by the owner of the house, William B. Abramson, 64.
THEY RUSHED into the basement where they found four women and a man sitting or standing around a shiny, high-quality roulette wheel, valued at about $1,000.
Jake Sullivan, morals squad chief, said no one tried to avoid arrest.
"Most of them had just purchased chips," he said. "They just sat there. They didn't want to get their chips mixed up."
Sullivan said the wheel was being operated by Louis J. Favilla, 61, 3437 Fremont avenue S. Two other persons were in the basement.
ALL WERE TAKEN to headquarters and booked on gambling charges. Also seized were a cash box with $143 found under the side of the roulette table, the roulette wheel and about 1,000 chips.
Favilla told police he didn't own the wheel, but had borrowed it. He didn't say who owned it.
"It was just a little social game," he said. "There wasn't much money in it."
"It's not crooked. It's on the up and up," he added, pointing to a mirror under the wheel as he helped dismantle the device. "That's an indication of an honest wheel."
SULLIVAN SCOFFED at the suggestion that it was a local, social game. He said some of the men involved have been operating the game elsewhere in the state and recently moved it into Minneapolis.
Favilla said the game has been going on about once a week for about a month at Abramson's home.
Favilla was charged with operating a roulette wheel and Abramson with keeping a gambling house. Their bail was set at $200.
Sullivan said he believed the roulette wheel was the first ever seized by Minneapolis police.
FIVE PERSONS charged with gambling were Mrs. Amelia Ryberg, 60, 1833 Goodrich avenue, St. Paul; Mrs. Betty Dolf, 50, 1341 Newton avenue N.; Robert I. Flynn, 74, 1547 University avenue, St. Paul; Annette C. Anderson, 55, Andrews hotel, 411 Hennepin avenue, and Mrs. Senta M. Field, 54, 1896 Summit avenue, St. Paul.
Charged with being found in a gambling house were Mrs. Blanch Houston, 55, 4944 Dupont avenue S., and Walter H. Goodrum, 60, 4931 Chicago avenue.
The arresting officers were Sullivan, Dan Graff, D.A. Nelson and Ray Cronin.
© 2015 Star Tribune