Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Day 22: Baldpate Casino and Slot Machines

It was called a “Dance Hall” but what about this sign???  Was it a casino, was there some shady business going on??   

Gordon & Ethel Mace at entrance to Dance Hall

Built in 1921, numerous stories in the 1922 Estes Park Trail report of events at Baldpate’s new “Ballroom.”  As was the custom of the time, many lodges would get together for dance nights, and from old posters, it seems Baldpate’s night was Thursday. Big bands led by the likes of Tommy Dorsey and Harry James, provided music for the gala affairs. Many visitors fondly recall attending a special dance sponsored by their college sorority or fraternity as well.

But back to the mystery, was there gambling?

Several times during my first years at Baldpate, guests I would have characterized as little old ladies, would corner me and whisper, “Do you still have them?”  My blank stare would then elicit the even quieter whisper, “The SLOTS?”

Ethel paying out slot machines.
Years later, a former staff member confirmed the presence of the machines at Baldpate. She also shared the story of how they could come to an ‘agreement’ with the local inspectors, but when the state guys came around, the machines strangely found their way under the gals beds in staff quarters.  She also laughed how many of her tips were confiscated by the Baldpate’s one armed bandits!

Digging through old letters and records, another fun discovery was this study of the "Slot Machines at Baldpate Inn" a 16-page hand written paper from 1936 by Mr. O.H. Basquin.  In his report he notes there are two slot machines, one nickel and one dime, from Mills Novelty Company, Chicago. Upon reading his detailed report, one has to wonder at the amount of time and major calculations he did while apparently a guest at the Lodge!

Written by Lois Smith

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