|The shaping of a corrupt government||Bootlegging right out in front of God and everyone|
Oklahoma bootleggers, operating illegally, for maximum protection, operated in close proximately to local police and sheriff stations. Often in direct view.
After prohibition (1920-1933) ended, Oklahoma remained a dry state, bootlegging was a lucrative business as well as various forms of gambling in most areas. This system was wide spread and well known to be operating under protection of local authorities.
The general consensus by those in the business during the time prohibition was repealed claim it was the crime syndication and their political hacks, who were the drivers fighting to keep Oklahoma dry. Because of the foot hold gained in a monopoly control of the sin business during the oil boom the syndicate had an extremely profitable business going. No competition and charging whatever the market would bear. State officials were likewise receiving very handsome payment. Both would lose if the state went wet.
Bars and pool halls had a back room with a closed door, with the only apparent purpose to prevent any who might pass by and look in the window from seeing who was in the room. Pool halls were strictly men and teenagers were allowed and roamed freely in and out of the gambling room to watch the action. Few if any could afford to play. Pay off gaming machines were in virtually every bar, cafe, etc, in these same areas. In many cases the establishment owner's cut from the machines was a major part of their revenue. Bootleggers and gaming machine owners were usually all part of the same syndicate.
Bootleggers and gaming machine owners were usually the same out fit. Authority payoff and protection were package deals. The gaming machines during this time were generally not of the slot machine type. They were usually pin ball machines sitting in among other similar looking but legal pin ball machines. With certain machines the player could cash out their winnings. The price of a nickel up to a quarter, and the time involved in a game, was much longer than a slot machine. This prevented huge losses or winnings. Still there was a lot of activity at the machines.
Illegal gaming seemed to diminish when the state went wet. Our research hasn't revealed any significant effort directed solely toward cleaning up the illegal gaming, that appears significant enough to have caused the demise. We put forth a theory which seems plausible. The illegal gaming industry, at the level of involvement in Oklahoma, was not a huge money maker for the syndicate. And, probably didn't carry the profits to pay off officials. The illegal gaming profits were just a little gravy when the more lucrative bootlegging paid the kickback fees. It would appear the syndicate lost interest and simply walked away.
Bootleggers would make a "liquor run" going to neighboring states to buy their liquor and bring back inside Oklahoma and selling for markups of at least twice the price of the same product in other states. Making far more profit than liquor stores in the state where they bought the liquor, because there was no competition, and the only significant overhead were kickback fees.
The liquor runs were the activity that spawned many colorful stories, books and movies, and most people associate with bootlegging. Bootleggers would seldom pay the authorities in the areas they had to pass through on their run. That could get expensive, as every authority wanted a huge share of the profits. Considering the cost for a mere 30 minutes or so of protection, most bootleggers were willing to take the risks of sneaking through. Generally, for the actual run, the bootleggers would hire someone who had no connections with the bootleggers, but wanted some fast money. In addition it required a fairly new and reliable car and often some modification to haul a worthwhile load. Each car could only make a few runs, before being recognized, even when taking different routes each time. They were paid quite well and knew it was only for a few runs and they were on their own if they got caught. The pay for a run, depended on how far across the state they had to travel, and how big a load the car could carry without. From inside the state a runner might get as much as $350 to $400 per run, with a beefed up suspension system. Not bad for less than a days driving when the same young man might make $1 to $1.50 per hour for a labor type job.
Obviously those huge profits had to be shared with the local authorities, i.e., city and county. The local authorities were, in turn expected to keep the state level authorities out of the bootleggers hair in what ever way worked for them. A local authority that didn't could expect a raid in their jurisdiction. The same with a bootlegger that wasn't keeping local authorities happy.
But, the main area of security concern was back at the liquor outlet, and the first line of protection was operating in close proximity to the local police.
The preferred liquor retail outlet was a taxi stand, about the only business that was manned 24/7. This was a time when no customer wanted to be seen buying liquor. Especially women when most would not be caught smoking in public. There was very little if any street lighting, making nights the busiest time. Customers would drive up a back street or alley. Stop at the back door and someone would come out and take the order and money. Go in and return with the purchase. It would have been easy for robbers to sneak up at night, unnoticed. Sometimes only the person selling the liquor, who would be distracted during the exchange and maybe one other with a gun were present. Similar to convenience and liquor stores we hear about being frequently robbed today
Yet during this period arrest and convictions for liquor business robberies were unheard. Why not when liquor operations were the perfect target? Illegal liquor sales were a cash operation going on 24/7. That meant a lot of cash and liquor on hand at night. Especially on weekends.
The perfect robbery target, since those selling illegal liquor couldn't have the robbers arrested and convicted in court. Since there were no laws to protect those dealing in illegal liquor from robbery, many of the bootleg shops, were located in close proximity, and in many cases in plain view of the sheriff or police department. Their operation was no secret and they were already paying handsomely for protection. This provided maximum protection and eliminate paying extra guards. Less overhead, fewer losses, less risk, more profit, more kickback.
Case in point
In our research we learned the bootlegger business in Seminole, Oklahoma, was a taxi company, setting within a half block and direct view of the front window of the Seminole Police Department and the Chief of Police's office window. The view out both windows provided a clear view to see every vehicle driving in and out for a liquor purchase, every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from the boom days of the 1920's until the state was went wet in 1959.
What is significant about the Seminole situation is the Chief of Police was none other than, Jake Sims, one of Oklahoma's most respected and storied lawman. Jake Sims, was the Seminole Chief during the oil boom years, moving on to serve stints as the head of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol's Division of Criminal Investigation, the director of OSBI, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, and finally back as the Seminole Chief of Police until approximately* the time state went wet.
To review our point, bribery and kickback, cover-up and protection, fraud and corruption, have long been accepted as the normal.
Jake Sims' dates of service. No records could be found showing Jake Sims' last date of service. However, we did find reference to his active presences at the Seminole Police station, as late as 1955, and he was still relatively young.