Part 2: A Night of Chance: Poker, Prohibition, and Unexpected Turns in Magnolia, Arkansas

Table of Contents

April 1921  |  Magnolia, Arkansas

On a tip that rum runners were having an easier time getting into New Orleans, Lefty headed down South to meet some people. An upside of a new liquor arrangement would also be that none of the bosses from Chicago, New York, or Atlantic City would get a cut of the shipments or the resulting income.

Born Francis Dalton Miller, Lefty worked for Dean O’Banion, the Chicago “Northside” boss. Johnny Torrio, Al Capone’s mentor, ran the “Southside.”

Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana were so far south, they weren’t anyone’s territory yet. Therefore, the boys had planned to do business in several different towns. They had already made stops in Memphis and Hot Springs to develop new outlets for the liquor they would acquire. Next was Shreveport.

Arkansas weather is always capricious, but on the evening of April 1, 1921 — as Lefty and Hymie Weiss were passing through southwest Arkansas — a big storm was brewing.

They took a wrong turn in Arkadelphia after visiting with a few college girls and ended up in Magnolia when the storm forced them to stop. Luckily, the Johnson Hotel still had downstairs lights on.

christyouei 1920s college girls outside on steps of university cc0d2c64 f15b 4172 9ba4 528ae296db5f

Three of a Kind over 2 Pair

As the night passed and the storm worsened, Lefty struck up what would come to be a high-stakes poker game with the owner of the establishment, Manny Johnson. Since he was an old soldier, 5-card stud was Manny’s game of choice. After several hours and more than that number of drinks, Manny, the hotel owner, was out of money. Knowing that the next hand would be his, he bet the hotel. His daughter, Abigail, begged him not to.

She’d been doing the bookkeeping for the hotel since her mom left them to move back East with a traveling salesman. Manny had been known to make poor decisions while drinking. (Like many trends that take a while to make it to south Arkansas, prohibition was the same. The 1919 passing of the Volstead Act did little to change the daily lives of residents.

Enforcement agents, called pro-hees in slang, were mainly in the big cities, with Shreveport being as close to Magnolia as any had come. And while the liquor had been taken off the bar shelves, everyone knew it was still readily available.

Manny, having placed the hotel on the line, was quite nervous but nonetheless drunk. He called when he should have folded, and as the dawn of a new day came, the hotel had a new owner. Instead of throwing them out, Lefty hired Manny to operate the hotel in his absence.

Lefty didn’t know yet that Abigail, or Stella, as her father called her, actually ran the hotel. Regardless of the fact that he was now a business owner, Lefty still had a job to do for Dean O’Banion, and it was time to get started on it.

Christy 1900 vintage scratched photo two story boarding house r 6b96bd92 b872 43fc b375 3b64f5f39395

You Might Also Like

Part 5: The Jazzed-Up Legacy of Lefty: From Liquor Runs to Legendary Bars in Small Town Arkansas
1922: Magnolia, Arkansas After winning the hotel from Manny, Lefty had to finish his liquor run for Dean.  No one left a job half done for Dean O’Banion. His dealings in New Orleans complete, Lefty relocated...
Pt.4: Fifty Years Later: The Mysterious Life of Francis Miller & the Opening of Lefty's on the Square
October 13, 1973 Saturday Evening As was his custom Francis, having retired from McAffry Plumbing, went across the Mississippi River from Lake Village, AR to Greenville to have dinner at Doe’s at 502 Nelson,...
Part 3: Raid at The 333 Club in 1932
1932 Friday December 9, Magnolia, Ark 10:05pm Francis was jolted into action by the deafening roar of gunshots. From the dimness of the back poker room, he instinctively bolted onto the balcony, only to...
Part 2: A Night of Chance: Poker, Prohibition, and Unexpected Turns in Magnolia, Arkansas
April 1921  |  Magnolia, Arkansas On a tip that rum runners were having an easier time getting into New Orleans, Lefty headed down South to meet some people. An upside of a new liquor arrangement would...
Part 1: Francis Miller's Birth in Ireland to American Immigration
From the Beginning On September 9, 1895, Bridget and Sean Miller welcomed their first born child, Francis Dalton Miller into the world.  The proud father immediately took him to the center of the village...

Copyright © 2024 The Right Ouei LLC