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York “bookie” joint raided

Was He Unlucky!

I don’t know if legal off-track betting has made “bookie joints” totally obsolete, but they seem to have been a fixture of mid-twentieth century life. A raid on one of those establishments made front page news in the Wednesday, May 1, 1946 Gazette and Daily. (Taken from the microfilm at York County Heritage Trust.)

The headlines read:
28 Arrested In ‘Bookie’ Raid Near City Hall’
City police uncover elaborate bookmaking establishment in second story room at 114 S. George St. Four arrested for setting up and maintaining and operating betting devices. 25 others held as frequenters. Paraphernalia seized.”

The article says that police “seized complete bookmaking paraphernalia in the spacious room—large enough for a dance hall or basketball court,” in the building a block from York City Hall. (That address might put them in the former Odd Fellows Hall building at the corner of George and King Streets, built around 1850. At one time a large upper floor room was used for entertainments.)

“Four men were arrested on charges of setting up and maintaining and operating betting devices and 25 for being frequenters.” The four listed posted $500 each for a 7 p.m. Friday hearing before Second Ward Alderman H. Gellard Fickes. The four retained Attorney Charles H. Still as counsel.

“The raiding party, under the personal direction of Police Chief Nelson L. Shultz, was divided into two squads. Three officers hit the front door at 3:31 p.m., and the other squad used a sledge hammer to force the rear door a minute later.

“Police said they confiscated run-down sheets, a ticker, post sheets from several race tracks, cashier’s signs and racing forms.

“Signs posted on the walls instructed patrons in the rules of the establishment. One sign read: ‘No bets taken after they’re off.’ another warned customers to follow ticker and amplifier as all bets would be decided with these.

“The 25 men arrested as frequenters posted $10 cash bonds for hearing before Alderman Fickes at 7:30 p.m. Friday.”

The article lists the names and addresses of the four operators and 25 frequenters. It also names Lt. C. B. Swigert; Plainclothesmen Russell Schellenberger, W.J. Farrell and B.A. Zimmerman; and Sgt. E.E. Eisenhart as the policemen, besides Chief Shultz, that took part in the raid.

A side bar tells how one of the customers had a doubly unlucky day:

“Frequenters caught by police in yesterday’s bookie raid on South George Street drew some comfort out of the greater misery of one of their number.

“The person in question had won on a daily double, but had not been able to collect before the establishment was raided.

“The daily double, a special bet involving picking winners in the first and second races at a track, usually is worth several hundred dollars.”