Friday, December 5, 2008

the Maceo Brothers

Rosario and Sam Maceo were from Sicily, and the two brothers opened a barber shop in downtown Galveston. During Prohibition the barber shop sold whiskey. This led to war between two groups of bootleggers. When Prohibition ended a truce was achieved between the two groups. Now Rosario, known as Rose, became the godfather and Sam became the front man. They opened the Turf Club downtown, which had a restaurant you could walk into and gambling on the top floor. Sam's office was on the first floor. Then they opened the Balinese Room on the waterfront facing the Gulf. It became an exclusive casino. There were payoffs to the state government. You had to be a member to get in. After I had been a reporter on the Galveston News for a few months I learned about all this. And so I went to see Sam Maceo. "Sure, you can go, but one thing -- you must promise me you will not put any money on the tables," he said. "It is not that we are not legit, we run an honest game, but I know that you do not make enough money to play." I quickly agreed as indeed I did not have a lot of money. I got together $100 in cash and went to the B-Room with Marie. After being interrogated at the front gate we were shown into the dining room. The food was superb and the orchestra played dance music. Marie and I ate and danced and then visited the game room. Sam Maceo showed up and picked up our dinner tab. I left a generous tip. In the game room were a number of players whom I knew in person or by reputation and all of them were playing big money. It was a revelation to a country boy whose only contact with gambling had been poker games in the Army.

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