Citizens Ask City Board to Make Cleanup on 25th Street

Ogden Standard Examiner, 3 September 1931, page 1

Gamblers, Bootleggers And Prostitutes Ply Trade, Committee Says

Petition is Signed

Girls Drop Beans To Attract Attention, Boys Relate
Charging that “known prostitutes, gamblers and bootleggers with their hangers-on are allowed to negotiate their business openly” on Twenty-fifth street west of Washington avenue, a group of taxpayers submitted a petition this morning to the city commission requesting an investigation of the conditions and demanding that the situation be corrected.
Mayor Ora Bundy, commissioner of public safety being absent, Commissioners Fred E. Williams and W. J. Rackham referred the matter to Chief of Police A. E. Wilfong and the public safety department for investigation and a report back to the commission.
Three signers of the petition presented it personally to the commission this morning and discussed the situation at length with the commissioners.  The three were President Aaron W. Tracy, of Weber college; David Mattson, representing the Marion hotel, and Earl W. Folkman, manager of the Healey hotel.
Good Influence Needed
It was explained that Stanley Steck, who controls the Lyceum and Cozy theatres, is letting Weber college use the Cozy theatre site free of charge on condition that it lend its influence in cleaning up the street.
Many strangers, three petitioners declared, make only one stop in Utah, that at the Ogden union station.  They walk up and down Twenty-fifth street “looking for queer people” as Mr. Mattson put it, and see foreigners of all kinds, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, Greeks, and negroes, in addition to bootleggers and prostitutes together with their hangers-on.  The entrance to Ogden, the three contended, should be the finest street in town to properly impress the visitors.
President Tracy pointed out that with the Weber theatre operating now on the south side of Twenty-fifth street between Grant and Lincoln avenue “we will have over 30 boys and girls making two trips down the street a day, both in the morning and in the evening.”
“They are youngsters and we do not want them to get mixed up with these loose women,” he asserted.  “They are curious, and perhaps may end up wrong.”
“What do they go down for, asked Commissioner Williams.
“I don't know,” said Mr. Tracy.  “Just young and curious I guess.”
Girls Drop Beans
He explained that one Weber college boy was “in a jam” so far, being mixed up with a woman and declared that girls, leaning out of upstairs windows, he has been told by the boys, attract their attention by dropping beans on their heads.
Commissioner Williams observed that hereafter he was going to keep his hat on while walking down the street.
With a few exceptions, Mr. Mattson declared, every establishment on both sides of the street from Grant to Wall is occupied by bootleggers, prostitutes, gamblers and their hangers-on.
Mr. Folkman suggested that much of the undesirable “nuisances” which he referred to as “trash” could be moved back into alleys or onto side streets.
“We can't license those women and put them in a district,” said Mr. Williams.
“You are licensing them,” declared Mr. Mattson, “every time you inssue a rooming house permit.”
Recorder's Suggestion
Recorder J. C. Littlefield said it would be easier for landlords to refuse to rent to such people than for the city to try to handle the situation.  He said the street always has been that way, asserting that when the restricted district was abolished the women naturally were driven onto the street into the rooming houses.
Both Commissioners Williams and Rackham asserted that all requests for rooming house and other such licenses are investigated and approved if granted by the  police department, Mr. Rackham declaring that the commission has abided by the chief's recommendation and refused licenses when he so recommended.
Police Know All
Mr. Mattson declared that the police all know about the resorts, the women, the bootlegging and the gambling.  “If you want to prove it, get some person whom you can trust to ask any cop where he can find a house of prostitution.  The cops will tell them.”
Alfred Gladwell, justice of the peace at Burch Creek, said that the chief of police recently begged leniency from the commission for a known bootlegger “when they had a chance to send him to jail.”
Asked who the man was, he said it was Louis Prantell, who has been previously convicted and should be in the state penitentiary as a persistent violator of the prohibition law.  The commission allowed him to pay a fine instead of serving a jail term, he said.
Recorder Littlefield said the city had to do something when the inadequate city jail was full.
A. B. Malan suggested that while the investigation was on the foothills, the oak brush and other secluded spots be visited at night.  Twenty-fifth street is now worse, from a morals standpoint, he contended, than the rest of the city.
Girls in Windows
Mr. Mattson charged that prostitutes are openly soliciting from upstairs windows, and on the streets, he said.  He declared the petitioners do not contend that prostitution can be eliminated but do feel that Twenty-fifth street could be better advertised than as a prostitution center.
“If  this situation exists the police department should know about it,” Commissioner Williams said, adding that he had never been solicited although he had walked and driven down the street upon numerous occasions.
Commissioner Rackham also observed that he had never been solicited although he, too, had had occasion to walk down the street.
Mr. Mattson urged the commissioners to act in a body.  He said he knew they tried to leave the operation of each department to the commissioner in charge but called their attention to the fact that they were really jointly responsible and would be held so.
Every day some tourist, and often more than one, asks why Ogden does not put its best foot forward to its railroad visitors, said Mr. Folkman.
Judged by Dooryard
Mr. Williams said he realized that “we are judged by our dooryard.”
He said the Healy hotel could obtain two or three times the rental money for the space no occupied by the cafe, if it cared to rent it to a bootlegger.
Mr. Matton contended that the property owners would profit if they cleaned house themselves and would obtain more aggregate in rental for legitimate uses.
Mr. Folkman complained that a crowd of undesirable persons always are hanging out in front of the Volunteers of America headquarters and wondered if they could not be “shifted onto a side street.”  Commissioner Rackham said the health department would investigate conditions there.
The petition submitted to the commission this morning follows:
Text of Petition
“To the Honorable Board of City Commissioners of Ogden City:
“We, the undersigned citizens and taxpayers, respectfully petition your honorable body to investigate, ascertain and correct the various nuisances and objectionable conditions which have long prevailed and now exist on Twenty-fifth street in Ogden City and particularly that portion east of Wall avenue and west of Washington avenue.
“We respectfully call your attention to the fact that both men and women of objectionable character being known prostitutes, gamblers and bootleggers with their hangers-on are allowed to negotiate their business openly on the streets in this district.
“It so happens that, by reason of the location of the depot just west of this district, thousands of tourists stopping in Ogden between trains for a few minutes get their first, last and only impression of Ogden City from a view of this district.  Naturally their impressions are formed from this view.
“It seems to us that the continued toleration of this condition we are deliberately placing Ogden and its future at a great disadvantage.  We believe that no effort which your honorable body could expend would yield more returns in the way of building up our city, than to vigorously pursue a program to place this district in order; to either abolish or regulate the practices existing so that they visitor will not be shocked by our present indifference.”