by Gene Trimble
The power of advertising has proven itself to me. I spent months researching my four- part article on the illegal casino in Branch Hill, Ohio known as the Arrowhead Club, (circa 1937). Poker Digest was good enough to run the columns for me. I personally got a lot of satisfaction from the effort. I also spent many hours agonizing over what to call the casino, Arrowhead Club or Inn. I found references to the Arrowhead in Hank Messick’s book, The Silent Syndicate, the Kefauver Commission report, and old newspapers. They all called it “Club.”
The Arrowhead was owned and operated by Joseph S. Bauer, Sam Nason, and Harold Nason. A large part of my research came from Harold’s son, Danny Nason. Danny is 75 years young and was 13 when the Arrowhead closed. The day I met him, Danny told me the name of the illegal casino in Branch Hill was The Arrowhead Inn. I had a 50-50 shot at the name. I could go with the memory from a 13 year old boy or go with all the written records I could find. The odds was with the written records. So much for odds and it is only half of the egg on my face.
Within days of Poker Digest, October 8-21 hitting the Gulf Coast card rooms, I got a call. The caller was Larry Steyerman from Ft Walton Beach, FL and he was Sam and Harold’s nephew. He just happened to be playing a little 4-8 hold-em at Grand Casino, Biloxi and picked up the issue. After the amenities, the first thing Larry said was, “Nice story but you got the name of the joint wrong. It was The Arrowhead Inn.” Larry also told me he had chips from there that Uncle Sam Nason had given his mother. Sam and Harold had 1 brother, 7 sisters and 17 nephews and nieces. Larry assured me I would be hearing from other relatives. Within days Marna L’Amie a niece from Gladwater, TX called me. She also had chips from the Arrowhead. On November 20th at the Blast From The Past Chip Show in Biloxi, I met Larry and his brother Victor Steyerman from Freeport, FL. Guess what? Victor had chips also. Marna had sent drawings of her chips and a wooden chip box the chips came in, from the Jack Todd Co of Kansas City, MO. (circa 1930’s). Lewis Steyerman, another nephew, 79 years young from Point Verde Beach, Fl is the only relative besides Danny, to have actually been in the Arrowhead. He has memories of the gambling and large floor shows.
I was in seventh heaven, except in my series on the Arrowhead I had attributed the chips the relatives had in their possession to an Arrowhead Inn in Saratoga Springs, New York, (circa 1945). I guess you can see the other half of the egg on my face. In all fairness I
was not the one that attributed the INN in an arrowhead, diamond mold chips to NY. Until Bauer’s chips were found, the NY Arrowhead Inn was the only one we were aware of. Meyer Lansky owned it and went to jail for the only time in his life, over it. It was a natural attribution. The NY Inn was a seasonal club. It was only open when the race track was in operation. I will leave the door open for the possibility that the Inn chips could have been used there, after 1937. Maybe Poker Digest can once more produce a little more history. Collectors have been finding the Inn chips at flea markets in Cincinnati and Northern KY for quite some time, but no one thought to look for an Arrowhead illegal club in the area.
The Steyermen’s have several hundred of the red INN chips that came from Sam Nason. Larry also has 7 black ones, a previously unknown color. One of the chip dealers in Biloxi, offered what I consider to be a large price for the 7 black chips. Larry answered, ‘I reckon I’ve been a pack rat all my life so I reckon I’ll keep the blacks ones.” Larry and
Victor’s mother has a train car on her property in Tallahassee, FL. They found another Jack Todd wooden chip box in it along with more chips. The Gaming Table is the chip collector’s bible. The INN chips have now been attributed to their rightful place in chip history.
The Story does not end here. Larry had two other chips that came from the Arrowhead via Sam Nason. He has several hundred of them. They also were shipped from the Jack Todd Co in Kansas City and on the diamond mold. They are the most unusual designs, I have ever seen. I am calling the designs a Maltese Cross. If you compare them to Joseph Bauer’s poker chips with his coat of arms on them, I think you will see a resemblance in the three designs. I believe the Maltese Cross chips to be designed by Bauer. I believe the designs have meaning, but after 62 years, they are only question marks in time. The orange Maltese Cross chip has a V in the center. We believe this could be a substitute for $5. Below are further examples which have turned up since my original research.
I have enjoyed the research on the Arrowhead more than I could ever tell you. It has been a passion for close to a year. I am very sorry to see it come to closure. I will treasure the friendship of all the Nason relatives I have met. They have been open and honest with the history I was in search of. I think I gave them a little history lesson in return, as they did not know all that I had learned. I intend to stay in touch through phone calls and email.
Special thanks to Larry for the Maltese Cross chips and good luck at the poker tables in Biloxi. Thank you, one more time to my friend Danny Nason who made my research possible.
I welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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