Major A. Riddle and Old Lady Riddle’s House

NOTE & UPDATE: There’s a comment here on this post from DACI (see comments down at the bottom of the page) that corrects much of the information in this post. There was a kernel of truth and much speculation in the story I recount here from my older neighbor regarding Major Riddle, and because of this, it’s important to take my anecdotes with a grain of salt and then read the comment by DACI for a more complete truth. I very much appreciate the updated information from her, because it gives a much clearer picture of Major Riddle and his life.

A while back, I was looking up the history of our house in the Old Northside Historic Plan, and I noted that the third owner of our house was Charles L. Riddle, who owned a lighting store in town in the 1920’s. I found a picture of the store in the Indiana Historic Archives, and posted it to my blog. We found out a bit more about the Riddle family today.

We were out working in the yard this afternoon, and stopped to have a chat with our neighbor Mr. K——, who’s an older fellow (graduated from Arsenal Tech in 1949) who once lived in the house next door. His son K—– owns the house now, and we’ve chatted with him many times, but we hadn’t ever talked to his dad.

He filled us in on what it was like to live there as a kid, and who owned what houses, and what some of the houses that burned down used to look like, and generally gossiping and telling us about some of the scandals in the neighborhood, which is HUGELY entertaining coming from a 77 year-old man.

He was telling us that when he was a kid, (in the late 1930s and early 1940s) the house was owned by “Old Lady Riddle” – her name was Susan, Charles’ wife. Charels died in 1925, apparently, and she owned the house after. Her son was a Major Arteburn Riddle, who grew up in our house and started a trucking company during the Depression here in Indiana. He was a generation older than Mr. K——–.

He told us that Riddle got rich during the Depression because he would sell rigs to his truck drivers and finance their purchase, then when they were 3/4 paid for, he would lay them off and foreclose on the loans by taking the rigs, so he had a reputation as a shady guy. (See DACI comment for more on this.)

Then he said that Major Riddle (all this time, we’re thinking “Major” as a military rank, but that was his actual first name) took all his “trucking” money and went to Vegas and bought into the Dunes Hotel, and after that he was really rich.

When he got to that part, I remembered that K—– had mentioned this story awhile back, too, but at the time I was more interested in Kurt Vonnegut, who lived for a while with his grandparents on 13th street, right around the corner from us, so I forgot about the Dunes Hotel story. Our neighborhood had some relatively famous residents in Indianapolis history.

Anyways, Major Riddle was married, but he came back to visit his mom one day with another woman — in a big convertible Cadillac with fins and a set of longhorns on the front. I wish I could describe word-for-word what Mr. K——- said, because it was classic — he said he couldn’t remember the woman’s name, but she was famous: “that woman. You know, that woman they were all shooting each other up for out there in Vegas.” She got out of the car, and took her fur coat out (in was in a garment bag?) and they walked up on to the porch, and Old Lady Riddle opened the door, and said:

“You can come in, but that whore has to stay on the porch.”

Which everyone around heard, because they were all out gawking at the car. And then he talked a bit more about the fancy Caddy, and mentioned that Riddle bought a 1960 Cadillac for Old Lady Riddle “before that, all her cars were Packards.” And because it was too big to fit in the garage, “they tore down the garage and built that one” – pointing at our rather spacious one car garage. He remembered them building it.

And then he went on to talk about Major’s sister, (? don’t know who this was; turns out Major didn’t have a sister) and how she made picnics every week on our front porch and invite all the neighbor kids from all around to eat, and Old Lady Riddle would have fits, because she didn’t want them all at her house.

And from there he talked about the neighborhood changing in the 1950s from an all-white neighborhood to a mostly black one, and how the neighborhood got poorer and many of the lovely homes burned down.

So after we came in I sat down and started searching for Major Riddle and the Dunes Hotel, and found quite a lot.

It becomes apparent that Riddle’s trucking company here in Indiana had some pretty serious mob connections, and that he was involved with the Teamsters in Chicago and Vegas, too. And he was a major figure in early Vegas history, buying into the Dunes in 1956, bringing the very first topless Burlesque show to Vegas, and raking in loads of cash and making Vegas a hot spot for high rollers and wealthy gamblers. Major Arteburn Riddle was a pretty famous guy, and he may have slept in the Murphy bed in our house. (It was installed in 1924. Don’t worry, we bought a new mattress for it.)

Riddle also appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1962 to hawk his book, “The Weekend Gambler’s Handbook” to promote the Dunes.

There’s an entire thread on rec.gambling.poker about “The Takeoff of Major Riddle” which was apparently some huge poker scam involving fleecing Major Riddle at the Aladdin Room at the Dunes. This is why it’s better to gamble on trusted online gaming sites like parhaat pelisivut.

I haven’t figured out who the floozy on our front porch was yet, but I’m hoping to track her down.

And it occurred to us to wonder what might be under the garage floor, and under that weird spot of different-colored concrete in the basement. 🙂

In all, it’s made for a very entertaining afternoon of googling, and we have a theme for our next party, too. And my next pet will be named “Major Arteburn Riddle” after our esteemed mobster pal and former resident.

After learning all this, though, we realized we know most of the people who’ve owned/dwelled here: Joseph Caylor, Dennis Jenkins, Charles Riddle/Susan Riddle/Major A. Riddle, the Zimmermans, James Q. Mease, Dylan Wissing and Johnny Socko Band, Julie Wohead and friends, and the Mineart-Koutek family. Our house has a pretty colorful history.

2009/11/21 UPDATE: we picked up the book Bugsy’s Baby: The Secret Life of Mob Queen Virginia Hill
and discovered that the “woman they were shooting each other up over in Vegas” – Virginia Hill – was indeed having an affair with Major Riddle, however, she probably wasn’t the floozy made to stay on the porch. (see comments from Riddle family members below.)
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Books, Books, Books

This past weekend, Stephanie and I went to my company’s warehouse employee book sale. This is where they lay out all the returned stock from bookstores and let us purchase it at a steep discount, which means that it doesn’t need to get recycled or trashed. It’s one of the great perks of my job for book lovers like us, and is a really great deal, money-wise. I was able to pick up many books that have been on my “to read” pile for a long time.

On the other hand… we came home with 160 books. 57 of them were mine, 30 of them are presents for family members, and 73 of them are Stephanie’s. So… yeah. We made great strides in reducing clutter this year in our house, then frakked it all up. Heh. Actually, the sheer volume of stuff we cleared out this year is quite a bit more than the books we acquired, so we’re not at all back where we started. But we have a lot of book storage to come up with.

And I have a LOT of books. Doing the math – I acquired more books at this sale than I read this year, easily, and I did the same thing last year. And I also bought quite a few new books this year, although one of my goals was not to do that. I feel guilty that there are so many wonderful books in my library that I simply haven’t read. And many of them have been sitting there for quite some time, while I go around willy-nilly, checking out new titles from the library and buying new books from the bookstore.

So… that leads me to my 2008 new year’s resolution(s), which I’m making a bit early:

In 2008, I will read only books that I already own, and read more of them than I have in the last few years. To accomplish that, my plans are:

  1. I will not buy ANY books in 2008, new or used, unless I have to for work, with one exception – next year’s year-end warehouse book sale, and that only if I accomplish my resolution, and I can only purchase as many books as I’ve read in 2008.
  2. If I need a book for book club, I’ll check it out from the library, or (worst case scenario) Stephanie will buy it.
  3. I will NOT check books out from the library this year, unless it’s for book club. (I know that seems strange, but the goal is not about saving money, it’s about focusing my attention on my own library.)
  4. Do a massive purge of my feed reader and severely reduce the number of blogs I read regularly.
  5. Carry my current read around with me everywhere, so that I focus on it, and not the magazines in the doctor’s waiting room, the internet while I’m waiting for gym class, etc.).

So there it is – my official 2008 New Year’s Resolution. Let’s see if I can stick to it.

2019 update: I did not succeed at this resolution. Not this year, or any other year that I made it.

2022-03-12 Update: And I haven’t since 2019, either.
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Sorry, Lafayette, I’m Staying Home

General Lafayette
General Lafayette

A Florida congresswoman, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite is proposing legislation to enable families of war dead who are buried in France to exhume their bodies and bring them home to be buried in the United States. Her explanation: “I, along with many other Americans, do not feel that the French government appreciates the sacrifices men and women in uniform have made to defend the freedom that the French enjoy today.”

Never mind that the reason we enjoyed any of the freedom we used to have in this country is because the without the help of France, we would never have won the revolutionary war. That’s the reason Eisenhower sent a message to the French on the eve of the D-Day invasion: “Lafayette, I’m coming.” And General Lafayette, the Frenchman who came to our aid, loved America so much that he wanted to be buried on American soil.

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Which political stereotype are you?

From a now-defunct quiz on Quizilla:
Which political stereotype are you?

Democrat – You believe that there should be a free market which is reigned in by a modest state bureaucracy. You think that capitalism has some good things, but that those it helps should be obliged to help out their fellow man a little. Your historical role model is Franklin Roosevelt.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
2022-03-12 Update:
Edited to remove borked link to dysfunctional quiz. No duh on the Roosevelt thing.
Continue ReadingWhich political stereotype are you?