The criminal past of Toledo's bootlegging era was on cinematic display Sunday with a documentary examining its notorious feud.
“Toledo: The Prohibition Chronicles” premiered for about about 400 attendees at the Collingwood Arts Center. It detailed the Licavoli gang, led by Yonnie Licavoli, and its battles with Jack Kennedy, a local bootlegger in the early 1930s.
Almost every seat is filled for the premier of the film "Toledo Prohibition Chronicles," which examines the city's ties to gangs during the prohibition, at the Collingwood Arts Center on January 7, 2018.
It described Toledo at the time as a refuge for “bootleggers, gamblers, and gangsters.” The film looks at how Mr. Kennedy ran truckloads of beer for his Studio Club.
“He sold his beer for only 15 cents a glass, compared to Yonnie's 25 cents a glass. And Jack was always warned before raids, giving him time to stash the alcohol and replace it with sparkling water,” the narrator said.
As Licavoli's club shut down, Mr. Kennedy's business ran as “wide open as a merry-go-round in Walbridge Park,” according to the film.
Mr. Kennedy was the only person brave enough to challenge the Licavoli gang, filmmaker Charissa Gracyk said.
“They, of course, didn't appreciate that. They ended up murdering him in Point Place on July 7, 1933,” she said.
That killing brought a change of attitude for Toledo, which afterward no longer tolerated the gangsters, the filmmaker said.
“Jack was a bit of a martyr for Toledo, in that sense,” she said.
One of the opening sequences to the premier of the film "Toledo Prohibition Chronicles," which examines the city's ties to gangs during the prohibition, at the Collingwood Arts Center.
As a line for the screening stretched through the building, Ms. Gracyk said she was excited by the film's response. Preserving these stories is important, especially as some of the interviewees were in their 90s, she said.
“The great thing about this story is somehow it seems everybody is connected,” Ms. Gracyk said.
Ms. Gracyk said she worked for two years on the project. The first year involved interviewing people and gathering footage. She spent the remaining time editing and completing technical work.
Ms. Gracyk said she is in talks to show the film at area festivals and possibly for wider distribution.
Johanna Staples, 64, of Toledo was among those who attended. She was interested in the city's development, but also had a closer connection. Ms. Staples' grandmother’s first husband was a former bootlegger in the city, which split them up, she said.
“It's a little personal,” she said, laughing.
Attendee Jorge O'Henry, 59, of Toledo is a friend of Mr. Kennedy's grandson. He, too, hoped to learn more regarding Toledo’s past.
The documentary did an excellent job tracing history, he said.
“The gangs back then were brutal,” Mr. O'Henry said.
Chris White is a fellow fan of this era in city history. The documentary added new, interesting facts to the published history.
“This is more in-depth than the books,” said Mr. White, 50, of Toledo.
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