I got the SPX chip at the Arizona Charlie’s show back in January this year. Somewhere along the line I sent for the ID. It came back to Brockway, CA, 1929. I am always disappointed when an ID comes back as CA. CA has had legal card rooms ever since the gold rush. IMO, It is tough to ferret out illegal from legal. I put it in my program and forgot about it.
Fast forward to the convention 2011. I was offered another SPX chip. My reply: No thanks I got one and CA is not my favorite chips unless I can prove they are illegals. His reply, they are not CA chips they are The Cal Neva Lodge, Tahoe chips. HUH?
Now I am interested!
A little more digging through the Mason records turned out a little more info. But why would Cal Neva chips be hot stamped SPX. Conversations with two of our biggest and most respected NV chip collectors could not turn up an answer to that question.
Some important info did come out of our talks. Cal Neva was licensed for gaming soon after NV legalized gambling in 1931. It would have gotten one of the first gambling licenses. Yes “Virginia” gaming used to have a “B” in it. Wonder what happened to it?
Chips delivered in 1929. No problem, we all know NV clubs had gambling prior to 1931. Brockway, CA was the PO address Tahoe used. Good point! Chips were delivered to George B. Goldie owner of The Cal Neva. GOOOOOOOD point!!!!
After much back and forth it came down to what “SPX” stood for. I said that is what we need to find out. My friend said “that is your job!
I love my job!
The story starts in Brockway, Ca with side trips thru Lake Tahoe, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, CA, and Reno, NV. It involves cops, raids, Country Clubs, Hollywood big shots, and last but not least Bugsy Siegel.
Enough of that:
And now “The Rest Of The Story.”
SPX. Per Mason Records
Geo B. Goldie
Per Mason records – “No date on card but there is an order letter says 12/29 and delivery G. Goldie/Cal Neva Lodge”
Brockway CA was the mailing address for the Cal Neva at the time. No PO in Tahoe.
Per our “Friend Of The Hobby:
After looking into the SPX, in my opinion, I think the chip is probably more Cal than Neva.
Geo B. Goldie
8477 Sunset Boulevard
I agree with our friend, more Cal.
George Bernhard Goldenberg AKA Goldie was born at Portland, OR in 1896 to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. When he was a kid the family moved to Los Angeles. George and his older brother Robert (by 2 years) were well known gamblers and night club operators in the LA area during the 1920’s to the 40’s—many of their places catering to Hollywood’s rich and famous (Robert died in 1935).
It’s said that Robert got his start in the gambling world when he and his kid brother were newsboys in LA. One day, waiting to buy his daily allotment of papers, Robert got involved in an alley crap game and lost his newspaper buying money. The following day he showed-up at the place with some dice and started his own game. His kid brother followed in his footsteps.
Fast forward to 1929, the year of the SPX order. In February of that year George Goldie becomes part owner of the Vernon Country Club in LA County (he got the place from Baron Long, one of the border barons who owned Agua Caliente). The place gets completely remodeled and about two weeks after its re-opening it burns to the ground.
Note: Geez, another illegal burns to the ground. How many have we read about?
A month after the fire, March 1929 the 34 year old George Goldie marries a 21 year old actress named Corinne Autra in Reno, NV. Two months after that, in May 1929 Goldie is listed as the owner-manager of the Cal-Neva Lodge when it opened “under new management” for the 1929 season (the entertainment provided by the Vernon Country Club boys from LA):
Note, “The Season” for Tahoe resorts was only 3 months.
Cal-Neva Lodge closed the 1929 season on September 14th & 15th (the 3 month season allowed people to reside on the Neva side of the lodge for 90 days—satisfying Nevada’s residency requirement for a divorce).
In Dec.1929 the SPX chips are delivered to Goldie in Brockway. A little over a month later on January 31, 1930, Goldie is arrested during a gambling raid of a place on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood: The Sphinx Club. My guess is that the SPX on the chip is a contraction of Sphinx.
Note: I totally agree with that guess. IMO it is not a guess but spot on.
Note: Time line.
May 1929, Goldie listed as owner/manager Cal Neva.
September 1929, Goldie closes the Cal Neva for the season.
December 1929, Goldie receives the SPX chips at the Can Neva address in Brockway, CA.
January 1930, Goldie (under an alias) is arrested at The Sphinx’s club raid on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, CA. All gambling equipment was confiscated.
No chips mentioned in article but “gambling equipment used in various card games” should cover the chips.
The address, 8477 Sunset Boulevard, housed many gambling clubs over the years, most notably the legendary “Clover Club” which operated there off and on in the 30’s and 40’s and catered to Hollywood big shots and movie stars (George and his brother Robert were involved with it—and other places).
Here’s a pic of the place when it was the Clover Club—the sign in the middle, the building to the left. The structure no longer exists, but the building to the right, the Piazza del Sol, does. Bugsy Siegel had an interest in the Clover Club.
(pic taken at intersection of Sunset & La Cienga)
Pic of the entrance driveway off Sunset:
Note: Bugsy Siegel and the Clover Club: I have read quite a bit about this Club. I have 2 Skey 3 leaf clover chips attributed to it. The ID is in TGT. I have never researched them and it might be hard to prove they came from there. There is also a hub chip that was sent there. I need it if you have a trader cough it up.
A decade after the 1930 raid of the Sphinx Club, Goldie opens another Sphinx Club at a different Sunset Strip location:
George Goldie died at Beverly Hills in 1961, age 64.
When I saw the references to the Sphinx Club it reminded that there are some crest & seal chips attributed to a Sphinx Club in Reno. Thinking that maybe Goldie had something to do with that place I looked into it. The only thing I could find was a Sphynx Club—always spelled with a “Y”--which operated in the early 40’s. The Sphinx c&s chips are all spelled with an “I”. Is there evidence of a Sphinx Club in Reno? If not, I wonder if the c&s Sphinx may be from Hollywood?
ad for the Sphynx in Reno from 1942:
The Sphynx, Reno per Harvey J.Fuller’s “Index Of Nevada Gambling Establishments:
Rest easy my friend and fellow CCGTCC Hall Of Fame member. You will never be forgotten by chip collectors. You gave so much to our hobby and asked for so little. I still have notes you gave me on the backs of Fiesta keno tickets.
The Sphynx-spelled with a “Y”
1410 E. 4th St
Licensed: 12/10-41 – 1943 – 21, craps, roulette
The Sphinx – spelled with a “I” - C&S chips attributed to Reno The Sphynx – spelled with a “Y.”
I think TCR has a bad “Attributed To” for these chips.
Per our resident authority on C&S chips.
"The Sphinx crest & seals appear to be Burt chips which would make them early 1950s. (POSSIBLY late 1940s)"
Note: The Burt Co bought out the old molds from USPC in 1947, leaving only two companies in the US producing clay composition chips, The Burt Co in Maine and TR King in California. I have seen some comments that USPC produced some C&S after the sell out in 1947. I have seen no proof of that.
The Burt Co may have or may not have made C&S chips prior to the buyout in1947.
If they did not, it would be impossible for the Sphinx’s – spelled with an “I” - to be used in Reno Sphynx – spelled with “Y” - 12/10-41 – 1943. Say that 3 times fast and win a chip.
We know Goldie was arrested a 2nd time in 1940 at The Sphinx in Hollywood. Did the Sphinx operate until the late 40’s early 50’s? If so that is where the C&S should be attributed. Did Burt make C&S’s before 1947? If so that is where the C&S should be attributed.
I am pretty sure this post is not going to be popular with Nevada chip collectors. Sorry gang.
On the other hand Ca illegal chip collectors are going to love me.