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Published: Tuesday, 12/16/2008

Part 3: Hayes becomes the target of hitmen

BY KENNETH R. DICKSON
AUTHOR OF SOMETHING FOR NOTHING

Part three of 14

Along with Jimmy Hayes' business sense, the decade of the twenties brought order and consolidation to organized gambling in the Toledo area. Operating without interference in Toledo and surrounding areas, Hayes opened his latest gambling establishment catering to the high rollers just over the state line in Michigan.

Located on the infamous Dixie Highway, or Avenue of Booze, the Villa offered fine dining and dancing for its moneyed patrons. While newspaper articles and ads created the striking, almost forbidden atmosphere that a roadhouse required, gambling was never cited. They didn't have to; everyone knew that Hayes and gambling were synonymous, and that the Villa's second floor was paradise for society's high rollers.

The Villa was a place where the slot machines lined the foyer, tuxedos from Detroit and Toledo lined the bar, and for the well known there were sophisticated games of chance at the top of the well guarded staircase.

Arriving about midnight, Aug. 15, 1924, with a search warrant, Michigan State police found Jimmy Hayes guarding the staircase to the Villa's gambling room. Corporal Rankin said that after breaking down the front door, many of Hayes' patrons had fled through an unguarded back door to their waiting cars.

The regulars who remained were subjected to the same sobriety test that Henry Ford required of his workers. Each dancer's breath was smelled for the unmistakable suggestion of liquor. The results of this cutting edge crime detection weren't noted in the official report.

Frank Mays, manager of the Villa, said that the Michigan police confiscated $50 in cash and several slot machines. Later, the Michigan officials in a game of one-upmanship stated that they had destroyed over $2,000 in gambling devices. The newspapers reported that the Michigan authorities were pleased that the Dixie Highway north of the Ohio State Line was entirely cleansed of liquor and gambling.

Both Hayes and Mays pleaded not guilty, and a bond of $1,000 along with a hearing date were set for September 12, 1924. In reality, as soon as the Michigan police left the Villa, calls were immediately placed to carpenters and contractors who began to replace the front door and repair the damage.

In just a couple of days, The Blade reported that the Villa's patrons had returned, and everything was back to normal. From cabby to gambler, Hayes had established himself as a major player in the gambling operations of the greater Toledo area.

"Jimmy Hayes became a name in Toledo, in Cleveland, then in Detroit, he was a regular guy," The Blade reported. "... He's on the square, the boys remarked about him. They heard of his private charities and heard that he booted youths out of his gambling establishments. Jimmy encouraged 'punks' to get an education ... Hayes was reputed to be in control of slot machines here as well as all other forms of gambling with other figures in the racket being in his employ. He was reputed to be the big boss in gambling in all of its forms here."

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Hayes felt very safe and comfortable in his adopted Toledo community, and the four men with their hats pulled low counted on Hayes' nightly routine on the evening of Sept. 9, 1926.

With predictable precision, Hayes would meet with the Jovial Club's manager, Harry Levine at Wandtke's Restaurant, talk about the day's business and enjoy a late supper together. Hayes would then walk to the St. Clair and Jefferson Avenue area where his parked car was waiting for him. Hiding in the late night shadows, the darkened touring car with its four inhabitants started to slowly follow Hayes as he drove toward his Collingwood Avenue home.

Hayes usually turned right on Monroe Street and continued west till he turned right on Collingwood, but tonight Hayes noticed the blacked out car in his mirror. Suspecting a trap, Hayes turned right on Ontario Street and left on Jefferson gaining speed and distance on his pursuers. Hayes' roadster strained to keep pace with the thunderous horsepower that was echoing off the buildings along Jefferson as the touring car tried to gain the advantage.

Nearing 14th Street the two racing greyhounds were almost even, and as they passed 16th Street the touring car pulled alongside. Hayes spotted the twin bores of the sawed-off 12 gauge just as both barrels belched fire. Hayes' reaction, while instinctive, was stopped in mid-turn as the buckshot found their intended target. Slammed against the steering wheel, Hayes' last movements veered the roadster into a scarred telephone pole at 17th Street.

Watching the murderous scene unfold as the cars raced past him, taxicab driver George Brown followed the carnage by seconds. Screeching to a stop behind the roadster, Brown pulled the unconscious Hayes from the bent and twisted wreckage. Bleeding profusely from his head, neck, chest, and arms Brown placed the badly injured Hayes in the cab's backseat and raced for St. Vincent's hospital on Cherry Street. Brown later told police "... this wasn't no robbery attempt, they didn't even try to get his wallet."

Working against time, the emergency room doctors struggled to control Hayes' bleeding before being wheeled into the operating room. Trying to smile before undergoing surgery Hayes told the reporters that caught up with him in the hallway "that it looked as though they meant business."

Punctuated by the twenty odd pieces of double-ought buckshot that the doctors removed from Hayes, the police were speculating that the war of words and threats between Hayes and known Cleveland gambling interests had escalated. The police treated the case as attempted murder.

With his room and hallway filled with flowers from friends all over the Midwest, Hayes received his trusted friends and aids in his guarded hospital room. Insiders said that Hayes and his friends conferred way past the posted visitor's hours.

Scooped by The Blade, reporters from the rival News-Bee were waiting for Hayes to give an account of the shooting after the operation. The reporters described Hayes as "... as one of the most picturesque figures in the gambling circles of the middle west."

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Privately, after his close brush with death, Jimmy Hayes made several major changes in his escalating gambling empire. First, Hayes vowed he was going to concentrate on his extensive holdings, letting others run the day-by-day activities and collect the gathering debris of publicity.

Quietly, Hayes gradually abandoned his fondness for liquor, fighting, and expansion, while he endeavored to become the arbiter of gambling in the Midwest from the shadows of respectability.

Throughout the remainder of 1928 Hayes was constantly being confronted by individuals using the legal system to recover their gambling losses.

As in the past, Hayes employed the best attorneys who would delay, stall, and frustrate the plaintiffs 'til they either dropped the complaint, or privately settled for pennies on the dollar.

However, accompanying the requests for thousands of dollars in compensation, new defendants were beginning to appear. The Fretti Brothers, the two Bennys - Harris and Aronoff - and Tom Worland were gradually replacing Hayes in the gaming public as Jimmy quietly faded into Toledo's background.



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