Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Jim Collins: Thoughts of those who have departed keep memories alive

It’s getting so I hate to turn to the obituaries because of the surprises that numb my senses.
It seems as if every day there are new listings that sadden me – people I cared a lot about who are no longer with us.
Just within a couple days there was Chuck Koelble, and Janet Hacha and Ken Ziel and Alan O’Janpa (OJ) – dear people who have departed. I could go on with many more names, but what’s the point? It won’t bring them back.
Nobody lives forever, but these people lived good lives, they were loved by many and they are now able to wait for others who will join them in their Heavenly abode.
I wrote the other day about a few people I know in the world of jazz and immediately got calls from pianists John Petrone and Frank Daniels informing me that singer Marilyn Holderfield, whom I mentioned in the column, had passed on just last month.
I didn’t know her as well as the others, but she was a giant in the world of jazz singers, female and male. Now she is singing in a Heavenly choir. Perhaps the others will pick up a couple of ideas from her.
Around this time of year I begin thinking about the golfing trip 16 of us took to Naples, Fla., every February.
As far as I know, there are three of us left. I am sure Walt Sargent is swinging the clubs every chance he gets. I don’t even know if Paul Ferris plays at all any more, and if anyone ever loved the game, he did.
The others are all departed now, playing golf in another life and paying off their nickels and dimes and figuring out their “presses” in a currency that we on this planet are not familiar with.
Some names in the obituaries are known to me only by reputation. Some I wish I had known if only because of the acclaim they won during their lifetimes.
A good example was in the paper Feb. 6. It said that Mary Healy, a versatile actress and singer who starred with Orson Welles on Broadway and opposite her husband Peter Lind Hayes for nearly 60 years, had died at the age of 96.
Wow! That’s a good, long life. I knew a lot about her career. It was spectacular. But whenever anybody mentions Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy, I can think of only one event that made headlines in Lake County in which they were involved.
They were on radio and TV for years as a duo, and they starred in sitcoms and game shows for years, but their noteworthy appearance here was not mentioned in her obit.
It was the great robbery of the spectacular night club/gambling joint the Mounds Club in November, 1947.
The place is on Chardon Road in Willoughby Hills (at the time it was Willoughby Township), and no, I wasn’t there.
But I remember the news coverage, especially in the old Cleveland Press. Thanks to the painstaking research by Don Lewis of the Willoughby Historical Society, I have his encyclopedic volume on the subject.
I have given a few talks on the robbery, and I will say this as an aside to Don – I couldn’t have done it without you.
Unless you were around here in that era, you could never imagine the kind of place the Mounds Club was. It was run by a guy named Tommy McGinty, who later took off for Las Vegas.
A guy like me could never have gotten into the place. I was a sophomore in college at the time, so I would have no business in a gambling joint that operated illegally anyway.
But you couldn’t get inside the place without rapping on the door and knowing somebody. Funny thing – when a Cleveland reporter asked Sheriff Jim Maloney about the great robbery, he hadn’t heard about it.
Inside, the club was a showplace, with glitter and glamour that befit the high rollers and Broadway stars who inhabited the place.
And it is still glitzy. I know, because I have lunch there every Monday. It is now called LaVera Party Center, it is all legitimate and above board, and it is the Monday home of the Willoughby Rotary Club. We have met there for a few years.
I don’t know about the other Rotarians, but I can look around the room (actually there are two rooms) and still hear the strains of Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy, Dean Martin, a fairly young Dean Martin, Joe E. Lewis, Sophie Tucker, Georgie Jessel, the Sammy Watkins Orchestra and a host of others.
Any of the high rollers there during the robbery who had money, a watch, a ring, a fur coat or anything else of value was ordered by the gunmen dressed in Army fatigues to throw them onto a tablecloth on the floor.
All the loot disappeared into the night. The robbery was never solved.
There were a lot of theories, and I have heard a few dozen of them.
Now even the bullet holes in the ceiling have been patched. It seems one of the robbers wanted to silence the crowd with a quick burst of a burp gun.
You don’t find that kind of excitement around here any more when you go out to dinner.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

army fatigues or east Ohio gas uniforms?

February 13, 2015 at 11:13 AM 

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