by Gene Trimble
If I am to tell the Nason's story, I have to regress beyond The Arrowhead. The times are tough and only tough men survive the bootlegging days. The Nason's take a young want to be bootlegger under their wing. His name is Sammy Schrader. Sammy would go on to all but run Newport, KY. A friendship was formed and the partnership would last throughout their lives. The Arrowhead was only the 1st of their ventures. Sammy also had a piece of the Walk A Show(1933-52) and all future Nason casinos. Sammy Schrader died in late March 1999. One week before I started the research on this story. I had no idea he was still alive. Danny Nason is positive that Sammy would not have talked about the old days, but I would have loved to have had a chance to ask him. In the 1950's Danny asked Sammy about the devices being used at Beverly Hills. Sammy answered "Danny, it is best I do not know about such things."
As I mentioned before, Harold and Sam were hustlers, scufflers, and gamblers. The only time money meant anything to Harold was when he did not have any. If he had $20 or $20,000 he carried it in his front pocket. Both Nason's had big hearts and never said no to someone down on their luck. Harold has been known to give up his last $100 to a hard luck story. If you are in Binion's Horseshoe, take a look at the Poker Hall Of Fame. You will find Red Winn was an inductee in 1979. Sam Nason and Red hustled together in the pre Arrowhead years and remained friends for life. Whenever possible Sam was the signal passer for Red in poker games. He would signal off the other player's hands. One time he even went so far as to station himself on a 2nd floor ledge to send the signals. Sam and Red once found a paramutual window at a track in Arkansas that did not shut down until the horses reached the head of the stretch.
Sam positioned himself at the start of the stretch. He would then, signaled Red the leader and Red would get bets down on the leading horse. Sam swore they left the track broke after a few days. My guess is the Jockeys knew more than our 2 heroes did. In 1946 Sam bought Danny a new Oldsmobile. Danny complained that he wanted a Buick. No problem! Sam gave Danny $500 for the mistake and gave the Oldsmobile to Red. A few weeks later Danny was given the coveted Buick.
PHOTO: Harold and Danny Nason - Hollywood Florida 1939
It is 1938 and The Arrowhead is no more. Joseph S. Bauer, the man that had groomed the Nason's, is dead. Harold and Sam are very much alive. The Walk A Show is a money maker but it is much different than the Arrowhead. It is a grind joint with a $50 limit on the BJ and Hazard. This type of operation would become a Nason trademark.
In 1940 Sammy Schrader had succeeded in wresting control of Beverly Hills from Peter Schmidt. He called Sam Nason to operate it as a 10% partner. Sam told Schrader he was not interested because Beverly Hills was on the edge of Ft. Thomas. A war was eminent and he felt the army would close the club. Turning down 10% of Beverly Hills for the next 20 years was a big turndown in my opinion.
The Paddock Club(1940-43) in Saint Bernard was the Nason's next casino. In 1948 the Nason's started a club on River Road called The Lake Edward's Inn. Hazard, BJ, some slots, and a race & sports book. It did not stay open very long. The Fox and Crow(1949-52) in Montgomery was their next venture. This was a plush club catering once again to wealthier customers. It had Hazard, BJ, and roulette. This was a joint venture with Sammy Schrader and Tommy Jackson who owned a the pin ball machine concession in Cincinnati. Danny Nason was given a choice, he could run the Fox & Crow or The Walk
A Show. Danny choose The Walk A Show. Sammy Schrader choose Tommy Callahan who had started as food and beverage manager at The Arrowhead Club to be the casino manager at the Fox & Crow. The Nason's also operated close to 20 baseball books, one of which was in the Merchants club. Two others were in the Turf & Field and the Produce Market in Cincinnati.
PHOTO: Harold Nason 1941
Sam Nason was a guy with ideas. He once purchased 50 acres of land that straddled the Hamilton and Clermont county lines. In the 1960's Moe Dalitz asked Danny, what ever happened to the property and proceeded to tell Danny about Sam's grand plan. Sam had every intention of building a movable casino building. It would be towed into the county with the least heat whenever needed. In the middle 30's Sam and Harold bought a bullet proof Cadillac. Harold used it to transport the daily takes from the Arrowhead and Walk A Show to the bank in downtown Cincinnati. Danny found the car many years later in a storage garage on 4th street, in downtown Cincinnati.
The Fox & Crow was raided in early 1952. Tommy Callahan was busy across the street with a woman at the time. He has always been blamed for the closure. Sammy Schrader called Las Vegas and got Tommy a job at the Desert Inn. Tommy went on to be associated with the Pioneer, Crystal Palace, and The Flamingo. He opened the Four Queen's in 1966 as General Manager and was said to have had points in the casino. Tommy brought many associates to the Four Queen's. Most had started in gaming at The Arrowhead or The Walk A Show.
Estes Kefauver closed the Nason's down in 1952, but not for long. In late 1952 Elmwood authorities allowed only one casino to re-open. The Nason's went in partners with the owners of the Blade. The new casino was called the 5911 (1952- 56), as it was at 5911 Vine street. The Nason's had a race and sports book as late as 1959 in Cheviot. They had the OK for table games but never did put them on.
Except for the Fox & Crow that was not operated by them, all of the Nason's casinos were on the up and up as far as the gambling went. I am not saying the Fox & Crow had crooked gambling. I do not know. The Nason's had $50 limits at all of their casinos. Big winners were rare and a customer becoming stuck had no chance of getting even. They were grind joints. I feel this is one reason the Nason's turned down Beverly Hills. They had a taste of high limit gambling and the devices used to assure there would not be winners, at The Arrowhead. I think they were much happier with the grind action. If you went broke in a Nason club there was always walking money and you did not have to ask for it.
Yes, I am saying that Beverly Hills had rigged games, as did The Lookout House and The Latin Quarter. Square games were operated at the clubs with smaller limits such as The Merchants, 633 Club, and The Yorkshire.
A little footnote in history: Porky and Bobby Lassoff put up the bankroll for The Merchants. They would also put up money and be part owner of the Dunes in 1955.
Both of the Nason's passed on soon after the era of the illegals ended in 1960. Harold in 1964 at the age of 64 and Sam in 1966 at the age of 68. In the end, they could not out hustle the Grim Reaper. I can just imagine the man with the sythe standing there and Harold offering to play him, one hand of 5 card stud, "for double or nothing." The Nason's stamp will forever be on the illegal casino business of Cincinnati and Northern KY.
Thank you to Irv Finklestein who in 1946 as a young veteran of WW II needed a job. He started at the Walk A Show as a cashier. He knew nothing about gambling and the Nason's taught him well. He went on to devote the next 50 years to the business.
Danny Nason, what can I say? Thank you seems so inadequate. You shared your family's life with us. The chip world thanks you. I am happy to call you, a friend.
I must admit there was quite a few "off the record stories" left on the cutting room floor. Maybe someday, Danny will authorize "Part V - Arrowhead Club" - "The Rest Of The Story"
I welcome your comments at email@example.com
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