by Gene Trimble
The Arrowhead Club became possible in the early 1930’s through a unique arrangement. No one in authority in Clermont County wanted to talk to Joe Bauer about a fix. Somehow he found his way to the local Baptist minister. A deal was worked out whereas, Joe would give the monthly payment to the minister. The minister would distribute the funds to the proper authorities. Joe was never to know where the money went or how the funds were dispersed. To further complicate things, Sam and Harold Nason were never to know who received the payment. In effect the Baptist minister became the bag man and the only person in the world that could put the operation in jeopardy. I wonder what the good padre would have told the law if ever a push came to a shove. My guess is “Religious Confidentiality.” Fortunately for everyone concerned, the push never came to the shove.
I need to make it perfectly clear that although the Cleveland Syndicate owned a piece of the Arrowhead, they were not involved in the running of it. Cleveland was known for putting up the money for their enterprises and letting the locals run them. Make no mistake, Bauer and the Nason’s operated the club.
The Arrowhead Club was the Cleveland Syndicate’s first casino in the area. They used the club as a stepping stone into the wide open gambling of Northern KY, but 1st there was the small matter of the Coney Island Race Track. I feel this is important as it happened while the Arrowhead was still open. Dutch Schultz owned the race track. In October of 1935 the Dutchman sort of wondered in front of a hail of gunfire. In early 1936 Moe Dalitz, who later would be credited with building a very large part of Las Vegas, summoned Harold Nason to Cleveland. Harold brought back the bankroll to take over The Coney Island track. Harold was only a few miles out of town when he noticed he was being followed. Fearing a robbery attempt he did some fancy driving and pulled into a firehouse, to lose the tail. As it turned out, Harold had ditched the bodyguards, Moe had given him for protection.
In 1933 the Nason’s opened their 1st gambling enterprise in Hamilton County. It was in Elmwood a suburb of Cincinnati. The suburbs of Cincinnati would be good to them for the next 26 years.
The Walk A Show at 5600 Vine St. was a huge building that held marathon dances, a fad of the times. The Nason’s purchased it and changed the name to The Walk a Show - Valley Restaurant. The Walk A Show had BJ and Hazzard plus a 300 seat race and sports book. Across the street was another casino called the Blade, not owned by the Nason’s.
PHOTO: Danny Nason in the parking lot of the Walk A Show, Elmwood Ohio - 1946, sitting on the bumper of a bullet proof Cadilac.
Back at The Arrowhead, business was booming. Clermont County Prosecutor Frank Roberts openly tolerated the club, because, in his words, it catered to the wealthy of Indian Hills and employed the poor of Branch Hill. I suspect there was at least one more reason each month for his tolerance. In late 1936 The Arrowhead started to experience some minor discomfort. Roberts began to make statements about “those greedy slot machine people.” My personal opinion is, the good prosecutor was getting cold feet. The cops would show up and be a nuisance at times. Cleveland took the problems as an omen and decided to make the move into friendly Northern Ky. The Nason’s were dispatched to Dayton KY where they built a dog racing track at Tacoma Park. The track turned out pretty good but only operated for about two weeks. A local dogooder found an obscure KY law that stated, there could not be betting on any beast after sundown. I remember when this law was repealed so Turfway Park could have night harness racing. In later years the Tacoma Park track was used for midget car races and a community swimming pool was built there.
I have not been able to pin down the date but I have reason to believe it was in August 1937 when the straw broke the camels back at the Arrowhead. Joseph S. Bauer died suddenly and from all I have learned, it was of natural causes. It was now up to the Nason’s to keep the Arrowhead going. There was one little problem. They had no idea who, how, what, or where to pay the payoff.
The bag man never came forward for his monthly stipend. Pure speculation on my part, but I believe Roberts gave the minister orders to back off. The Nason’s continued the operation through September, October, and part of November 1937. Roberts sent orders to close The Arrowhead. These orders were ignored. On November 19, 1937, Roberts himself lead the raid that closed The Arrowhead for good. Roberts made the statement “the slot situation became so bad, it could not be tolerated.” The equipment was confiscated. The new county court house at Bativia, Ohio was the recipient of the Arrowhead furniture. The grand jury room got a new table. It was a crap table from the Arrowhead with the felt removed and the legs shortened. I wonder if it is still there.
PHOTO: Sam Nason & professional boxer "KO" Mars, Hot Springs, Arkansas - 1924
After the Arrowhead was closed in 1937, the Nason’s held to the old traditions. Joe Bauer’s widow received a payment from the Walk A Show every month. Sam and Harold felt the family of a friend and partner had to be taken care of. The widow’s death or the closing of the Walk A Show in 1952, by Estes Kefauver would have been the only two things that could have stopped the payments.
Thanks to John Benedict for finding the JSB chips. I would never have known the story of the Arrowhead if it was not for this find. Joseph S. Bauer purchased the chips in 1926 and he ran the Arrowhead. The Nason’s had to have played poker with the chips. They were gambling pioneers in the area. If you touch the JSB chips, you are touching the history of gambling. I think we are collectors of gaming history. Hold the chips and close your eyes. Picture a much different gambling era. An era past, that can never be again. The best part of John’s find is the story does not stop here. When I emailed John to send me the JSB chips, in his reply he asked me if I had ever heard of Sam Nason. John suspected Sam might have something to do with the Arrowhead. I had no idea who Sam Nason was, but because of that simple question and Danny Nason, the history of the JSB chips, lives on for years to come. Danny has put me in touch with a number of veterans from The Arrowhead and The Walk A Show. They have also seen service at The last Frontier, Sands, Flamingo, Riviera, DI, Caesars Palace, Downtown LV, and you name it. It is likely a former Nason employee, has been there and done that. It is truly, a small world.
Next month, The Paddock Club, The Fox and Crow, The 5911, The Lake Edward’s Inn, and Big Surprise, The Four Queen’s connection.
I welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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