Tag Archives: oasis bordello

spreading love, gratitude, and feedback

Thank you for sharing stories, sending pictures, and writing in to let me know what you think! I wanted to set aside space to share responses people have offered in the wake of my last few posts, so I’m including some reader mail below. There are some groups and people out there with overlapping interests, so I am also trying to help spread the word if you aren’t aware of one another.

First of all, my overview article from last week generated huge interest, receiving more than 2,500 page views in the first 48 hours. That feels like hitting the big time for this nascent little blog…

abbi on broad city

abbi on broad city

Spreading the love, in case you weren’t aware but may be interested:

The Facebook groups “You know you are from the Silver Valley if…” and “Old School North Idaho,” along with the Facebook pages “Only in Wallace Idaho” and “Love Wallace Idaho” are all active and interesting spaces where people are sharing regionally specific and historic interests. And of course there is also Huckleberries Online (the Spokesman’s North Idaho blog), and the Wallace Idaho Chamber.

There is a whole discussion thread on Only in Wallace that addresses rumors about tunnels under the town connecting various brothels, bars, hotels, and businesses. I have also heard the rumors—especially concerning the Smokehouse building—but I don’t have any more credible information than anyone else on this front… Something to explore further?

The Historic Wallace Preservation Society is asking for more Silver Valley photos, stories, and help doing research so they can make videos that celebrate and share the Valley’s legendary past.

And if you want more information regarding locations, here is little video from a few years ago:

(https://youtu.be/KDKXQC2-Q8c)

I’m psyched to have connected with another person from Wallace who is also in the writing industry:

Reader Mail and Stories:

People I didn’t previously know have been writing to me via the contact form or sharing stories in comment sections on the Facebooks or on the Huckleberries link to my piece (if the post was public, I included the name associated with the post, but otherwise I didn’t, and I am happy to update this post to revise according to personal preference):

Fascinating to find out more… having grown up in Wallace (50’s) where we just took this all for granted but knew little about it. — Patricia DraGoo Bumgarner

Very interesting, would love to have the book. My mom worked at Runges furniture in Wallace, she talked often of how nice the madams were when they came into the store. We all new about the houses….. — Diane Werlinger Ketchum

I grew up in Wallace, and one day walking down the alley behind the Oasis they had posted a sign on an 8×10 piece of paper reading, “We’re closed. Beat it!” The double entendre was so obvious and amazing, even to a teenager as I was at the time, that I burst out laughing right then and there. I wish I had ripped it off the door. But did not keep that souvenir. Don’t remember the year but I suppose it was 1973. Wallace was a great place to live, but it’s a bit odd to have strangers ask you directions to the “butt huts” when you are a little kid. Luckily, I was able to give directions by the time I was 7. Just like everyone else.

And the world’s oldest profession worked well in a male dominanted mining town. No child molestations, no rapes, and a woman could walk home safely, alone, when her shift ended at one of the local food and drink establishments. I believe there were 13 different licensed liquor establishments, and 13 churches of all religious genres. Everyone was happy until the Feds moved in over missing out on tax money revenues. The “rooms” were always upstairs over some licensed liquor watering hole; and my Dad always joked that he was the only bar in town with no f***ing overhead; the only one story saloon in Wallace, Idaho. — Susanne Neville

I was raised there. I have nothing but nice things to say about them. I worked beside them, They helped us and they made huge contributions of our community in more ways then one. — Aunt LesLee B

Very interesting. We lived up there in the 70’s and used to party a lot in Wallace. I remember the brothels in the alley. My husband used to deliver groceries to many of them in the 60’s. He worked for Britt’s grocery in Osburn. He said all the madams were very nice to him and tipped good. — Lynda Murray

My favorite comment was attributed to a guy vacating his business below one of the brothels. When asked why his business failed he supposedly said ‘Revenues was okay but there was just too much …… overhead’. 🙂

It used to be that you could find all those books at Silver Capital Arts. Norma Bradford always made sure he had books on the area. — Debi de Bruijn

I wrote about the Wallace brothels in my book, Bobby Convict. — Bobby Wilhelm

So interesting. I grew up in Wallace too. I worked at Idaho First National Bank and met Dolores Arnold in the early 70’s. — Lynn Towne

Telling it like it was, and should still be.

I am reading your “selling sex” and loving it!! I wish I would have known about this sooner. My Grandma was Dr [name omitted] nurse and had to do all the check ups on the girls. When she passed away she gave us all the medical notes and records that she had hand written.

Very interesting! I didn’t know prostitution lasted so long. I grew up in the Sunshine Mine Housing Area until 1963. — Donna Myers Roark

I remember back in I think 1973 when the U&I rooms put a sighn on the door. It said Closed, Beat It. LOL — Dave Parsons

I found this to be very interesting but have some questions(which will remain private)concerning the actual knowledge of the material presented by ‘personal interviews’ and that gathered by research assistance.both sources of which could be called,in some cases customers. — wheels

boy do those of us who grew up there remember they used to order tons of fingernail polish from Lockhart’s Drug Store Kerry and would pack it up but Bill delivered it

Saw your piece on the brothels. I came across an estate sale about two years ago and a lady had old doors covering the walls of her garage with numbers on them. I inquired about buying one but she said they weren’t for sale. Apparently they were the old doors in the 1890’s of one of the old brothels!!

My mother’s mother, [name omitted], cooked for Delores Arnold in the early 50’s. Delores gave my grandmother a little pomeranian. My dad, [name omitted], did carpenter work for Delores in the early 50’s and said they joked around a lot. Delores bought cookies from my mom and would send my sister and me money for Christmas. I have some pictures of Delores that are better than the ones I saw on this site. She was a beautiful woman—slim and with dark hair and eyes and dressed in pretty dresses and high heels.

Or as they used to say of John “Pozzie” Posnick’s Silver Corner Bar & Grill, located downstairs of the Lux Rooms, “Pussy up, Pozzie down.” — deepee

As my cousin, [name omitted] might have related to you, my great-uncle, [name omitted] owned the building housing the Oasis until his death in the 1940s.  He had come to Wallace in the late 1890s and founded the Rainbow Mining Company, which would later become Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp. I grew up in Pinehurst, and while working at Uncle Bunker on weekends and attending the U of I during the week, I was often accompanied home by friends interested in ‘seeing’ Wallace.  🙂 It was an incredible time for the town in the 1970s, before the mines closed.  Then, I was in Kellogg in 1991 when the FBI came to town, raiding 54 bars around the Valley.  That was a sad day in our history, but one that was destined to happen someday. Thanks for the article and for all of your research.

That was really interesting…I had no idea.. Thank you.

And the messages below were in response to my NPR interview from earlier this month, which is also an overview-type of piece. I linked to it on March 7, but if you missed it and would like to check it out, here’s a link to the radio program’s website (it’s the first sixteen minutes): http://withgoodreasonradio.org/2015/03/the-madam-next-door/.

Heard your discussion on humanism and civil exchange of thought a few minutes ago on WHRO. Thank you for putting yourself out to the public in this regard. Open minded conversations are so rare in our culture.

Dear Professor Branstetter: This Spokane native was delighted to tune in to NPR and hear you talk about Wallace, Idaho. How well I recall the shock and dismay upon being told that my high school sweetheart and a bunch of his friends had ‘made the big trip,’ as they called it back then in 1959, to Wallace. On my last Seattle to Virginia drive, I spent several enjoyable hours exploring your quaint historic town. Your interview was great fun and a big surprise, coming from a professor at VMI!

This message was from a friend I went to high school with:

Heather, I just listened to you on the radio!!!! with a group of ppl all from Wallace and we knew maybe 10% of the true history of the town I love even more now. I could have listened to you talk all night about it. I can’t imagine the information that you must have received on this journey and you put it together flawlessly. The whole time I was thinking I know her;) I am so excited to read the whole project. Please come see me when you are in town next. I hope you are well, and again that was truly amazing:)

And this email came in via my father, from one of his friends:

I thought it was great coverage of the topic. Obviously a tremendous amount of detailed background work went into this. I concur with Heather that I don’t see sex work as a moral failing. And I am not opposed to commercial industry if it is free from trafficking, violence, risk to workers, chem dependency, exploitation of individuals with limited capability or behavioral health problems, etc. I think Wallace provided an advanced (although not perfect) infrastructure for safe sex industry practices. People desire the services and people who freely choose the employment all benefit. I guess I think most of the folks I knew had similar leanings and had a fairly mature perspective. The one area I’m not sure I agree with Heather is the notion that small stories with moral content played much of a role in shaping the culture or support for the industry. I think people saw this topic in a broader context. The sex industry sort of fit the communities laissez faire attitude in general — that is still in much evidence today (e.g. If I want a drink at 3:00 a.m. why can’t I get one at the Wallace Corner or Sweets?) That is why I keep coming back 😉

I’d like to close with a response to the last comment. I absolutely agree with this suggestion regarding our laissez faire attitude and I did talk about this during the interview (which they edited down from fifty minutes). Yet community attitude alone cannot explain the extent to which the brothels were embraced so widely. Nor can it account for the longevity of the arrangement as it worked in Wallace. How do we create and change culture in the first place? The value system undergirding our communal attitude through time did not appear out of nowhere–it came from somewhere.

Of course there are the economic influencers, combined with the relative geographic isolation of the Silver Valley. Boomtown-style demand for sex work continued even as Wallace transitioned into a longer term mining town. The economic logic was both sustainable and self-reinforcing, especially when you take into consideration the decriminalized and regulated gambling industry that flourished in tandem. Plus, Wallace had political influence when it was producing more silver than anywhere in the world. State leadership in Boise (eight hours south) was content to take the revenues and let the panhandle “go its own way” as Egan’s Times article put it.

But through the course of my research and thinking these past four years, I have come to the conclusion that continued maintenance of the brothel-based system as it worked in Wallace was also the result of explicit connections to the community’s shared understanding of itself. Live and let live attitudes were cultivated and reinforced through informal yet persuasive “lines of argument” echoed throughout Wallace’s history, oriented in part toward protecting the town from outsiders, and repeated by people during small talk. Storytelling invented and worked to stabilize a sense of collective identity as the town evolved over time. I’m working on an article that documents and explains these aspects, connecting each saying repeated in small talk to its emergence in specific events and eras in Wallace’s history. This is my main research-based intervention for the more scholarly side of this story, I think. I am also working to highlight these elements as I continue progress on the book version.

Anyway, it’s been really helpful to hear your thoughts, and I’d love to hear more feedback, comments, critiques, stories, research tips, observations, etc., so please feel free to contact me in whatever way you feel moved.

overview: a century of brothels in wallace, idaho

A Century of Brothels in Wallace, Idaho: An Overview

The podcast episode I’ve linked to above discusses some of the madams and brothels in Wallace, Idaho through the years, beginning in the early mining camp days and wrapping up with the early 1990s. Below is a transcript with pictures.

Some of the earliest evidence for the houses appears in 1890, in the form of sensational newspaper stories and even advertisements. In December of this year, an ad appears announcing a Christmas ball to celebrate the 1890 grand opening of Gracie Edwards’s The Star, a high-class brothel located at the corner of 5th and Pine.

1890GracieEdwardsStar

The Star employed at least six women from 1890-1904.[1] Gracie’s parlor house featured crystal goblets, satin spreads, and pillow shams on the beds, following the example of larger city bordellos. Two of her girls gained fame one night when Lulu Dumont stabbed Frankie Dunbar with her stiletto seven times while fighting over money.[2] She survived.

Madam Effie Rogan ran a house called The Reliance on Pine between 5th and 6th streets during the 1890s. In about 1904, she moved from Pine Street to the alley behind what is today the Oasis Bordello Museum. Effie’s housemates reported their occupations as dressmaker and hairdresser to the 1910 census taker, but they were probably both working girls because the following year, Effie was in court for keeping a house of prostitution.[3] By 1912, she had been convicted of sex trafficking, which was referred to at the time as “white slavery.”[4]

Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge Collection)

Effie Rogan in 1906. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge Collection)

In 1908, the Daily Times features an ad[5] for an establishment in the red light district called the Palm Garden, managed by a woman named Jennie Girard from 1906-1911. The ad is rather vague about what happened there, saying only that the house is “The Only Place of its Kind in Idaho,” and urges the reader to “Come and Be Convinced.” This theme was consistent with Jennie’s style: she also ran a variety show out of a place called the Surprise Theater.

1908PalmGardenAdDailyTimesJuly16

In 1910, four women worked for madam Connie Foss, whose house was also on ‘the Alley’ of “Block 23.”

1908ConnieFossMadamAveA[8-P760]

Connie Foss in 1908. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge Collection)

After President Teddy Roosevelt’s visit in 1903, the city began relocating the working girls to the triangle piece of land north of Cedar Street, between 6th and the river. This area would eventually become the “official” restricted district.[6] By 1904, Mayor Rossi had mandated that “all lewd women” would be confined “absolutely” to Avenue A, the alley located here.[7] Rossi began to enforce this policy of separation and containment strictly in 1905, when he declared to the city council that prostitution was “a necessary evil,” but that it must be limited “to its present quarters with a strong hand.”[8]

By 1911, much of the country had worked itself into a moral panic over prostitution, and many restricted districts closed completely. The Mann Act was signed into law one year earlier, and it prohibited transporting women across state lines for “immoral purposes.” It was meant to target procurers and aid in the prosecution of those engaged in human trafficking and sex slavery. In the rough mining town of Wallace, full of single men, the thinking went that as long as vice was limited to Alley A, it was okay for some women to sell sex in order to, as Rossi put it, keep “virtue in the highest esteem”[9]—that is, prevent other women from getting raped. So the concerns shifted to public health and social hygiene instead, as they soon would across the rest of the nation as well. In 1913 the red light district financed local improvements and was the first part of town to benefit from paved streets and other upgrades.[10] The city council voted in 1917 to grant the health officer oversight of the conditions there, setting the stage for medical regulation in the future.[11]

1911HealthOfficialsInspectAlleyAHighlighted

By 1917, the United States government had declared a war at home as well as abroad, launching a comprehensive campaign to eliminate the remaining red light districts across the country. This attempt was successful in many cities, but in towns such as Wallace, prostitution was such a part of the culture that it would not be eradicated so easily. The War Department teamed up with Brown manufacturing company to distribute “educational” propaganda to sites of industry such as logging mills and mines. Fliers and pay stub enclosures, sent to the Potlatch Forests Company for distribution,[12] were meant to curb the demand for sex work through fear mongering.

University of Idaho Special Library Collections & Archives (Potlatch Papers)

1917 War Department Fear Propaganda. University of Idaho Special Library Collections & Archives (Potlatch Papers)

The government also included suggestions for rhetoric appealing to patriotism and loyalty to country when giving safety lectures to workers. One flier warns, “Keep Away from Prostitutes Priced and Private. Most cases of clap and syphilis come from sexual intercourse with prostitutes (whores). 70% of all ‘loose women’ have both.” This material seems a bit extreme, proclaiming that clap and syphilis “are among the most important causes of insanity, blindness, paralysis, impotence, barrenness, miscarriages, and many terrible diseases called by other names.” While some of this propaganda is factually inaccurate, syphilis was a serious problem.

Josie Morin was a well-known madam at the U&I Rooms. For a Red Cross fundraiser during WWI, she gave a little girl named Mary Gordon White $25.00, which would be the equivalent of about $450-$500.00 in 2014 currency. Gordon White, who grew up in the house on 301 Cedar Street, wrote about her experience years later: “I rang the bell and a very nice lady asked me to come in. Her living room had pink shaded lights and a lot of shiny satin pillows, and she seemed very friendly and very pretty. [… When] I told about my lucky afternoon at dinner that night, my father said he knew her. She was a very generous lady. She gave money and other helpful things when needed” and was “a very well-known madam who had a booming business in Wallace and the Coeur d’Alenes.”[13]

Josie Morin in 1914. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Josie Morin in 1914. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Babe Kelly was one of forty-four indicted by a grand jury for conspiracy to violate the Prohibition law in the event that came to be known as the North Idaho Whiskey Rebellion. In November of 1929, two weeks after the stock market crashed, the paper reported the wave of arrests by federal agents: “Some of the defendants were visibly affected as they were brought into Commissioner Walker’s office, but the majority laughed and chatted.[…] Most jovial of all was fur-coated Babe Kelly, who draped herself in a chair, lit a cigarette, and began ‘kidding’ the officers and telling jokes.”[14] These indictments were a pretty big deal at the time, and represent the second of three major federal raids in Wallace’s history, with the first being the intervention during the labor wars of the 1890s, and the third being the gambling raid in 1991. Local historian Dick Magnuson has pointed out that, when compared to other Volstead Act conspiracies, the unusual thing about the North Idaho Whiskey rebellion was that money paid to public officials went back to the local area, rather than into private pockets.

 Anna Brass, aka Mrs. Julius Brass, was a madam on Avenue A during the 1920s. In August of 1931, The Health and Sanitation Committee, along with the fire chief and chief of police recommended to the city council that her brick building needed to be torn down because it was “so dilapidated and/or is in such condition so as to menace the public health and/or safety of persons and/or property on account of increased fire hazard and/or otherwise.”[15] If she didn’t remove it within ten days, the city threatened to demolish it for her and tax her for the cost.[16] She would, however, continue to run a brothel in the restricted district until at least 1937.[17]

After prohibition ended, women began to return to greater leadership roles within the community. For example, women such as Bess Ricard owned and operated their own joints again. Ricard’s was called the Pepper Box during the 1940s[18]. It may have simply been a bar, but was most likely a brothel that served beer and liquor and featured slot machines.

Bess Ricard. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Bess Ricard. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Gambling had been technically banned beginning around the turn of the century up until 1947, at which point in time the city council legalized “coin-operated amusement devices,” and during this first licensing period alone, brought in about $22,000 dollars, which translates to nearly a quarter of a million today.[19] In 1938, the amount would increase to $38,000, or about $376,000 in today’s money. Then in 1949 the town expanded the ordinance to include “punchboards” and other “chance prize games.”[20] A woman by the name of Ruth Poska also applied for such licenses under the name of an establishment called The Club, which was located where the Bordello Museum is today. She was likely the madam upstairs, which might have been called the Club Rooms at that time.[21]

Ruth Poska. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Ruth Poska. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Dolores Arnold, was the “star” madam of the post-World War II era. She first came to Wallace from Bremerton, Washington in 1943,[22] and by 1947 was in charge of the Lux Rooms. People say she could have been a movie star, ran her business in a “classy” way, and was both respected and beloved by people around town.

Dolores Arnold in 1943. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Dolores Arnold in 1943. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Like Gracie Edwards had done fifty years prior, Dolores hosted Christmas parties for local businessmen and community leaders, and like Josie Morin twenty-five years prior, she gave generously to charitable causes, even turning some causes into a double-benefit: she bought so many raffle tickets that she would win, and then she would give away the prizes to families in need.[23] In 1972, she donated food baskets to the families of the 92 miners killed in the Sunshine disaster.[24]

Dolores Arnold in 1947. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Dolores Arnold in 1947. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Luoma Delmonte was also widely seen as a community leader. She was close friends with Dolores and competed with her in the realm of charitable giving.[25]

Luoma Del Monte in 1945. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Luoma Del Monte in 1945. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

She came to Wallace in 1945 and had made over the Western Rooms into The Jade by 1953. Known around town simply as “Loma,” she had a reputation for being funny and for unleashing a torrent of dirty words if you pissed her off.[26] Loma was a devout Catholic, and many of the profits from her house went to the St. Alphonsus church.[27]

Luoma Del Monte in 1955. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Luoma Del Monte in 1955. Photo Courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections (Barnard Stockbridge)

Dolores and Loma set the standard for the way the houses would be run in Wallace. They ensured that the women they employed would not solicit on the streets nor drink in the bars around town, although they were allowed to visit the drug store, bank, buy paperbacks and magazines, and wire money to their families using Western Union. Around town, the girls were never to speak to a man first, for fear the man might become embarrassed at being recognized in front of others, or perhaps also because people worried that could easily cross the line into solicitation. These women both donated liberally to the city coffers and special community events, such as prizes for the fishing derby, when the town drained the pool, refilled it with creek water, and planted fish.

During this time prostitution was widely embraced and regulated by the town. Penicillin’s availability and effectiveness led to changing attitudes about sexuality nationally, and lessened the consequences of promiscuous or commoditized sex. Every woman who came into town had her picture taken by Nellie Stockbridge and also checked in and out with the police, who ran her rap sheet through the FBI records to see if there were items of concern and to double-check that she was over the age of 21.

People who grew up in Wallace didn’t know anything other than sex work as a fact of everyday life. The community embraced its wild “live and let live” mining camp attitude and the underground economy that went along with it. A New York Times article appearing during the 1973 shutdown confuses some things, but offers an example of the high degree of acceptance the community had toward the madams and houses, and illustrates how wide Wallace’s reputation had spread, noting that a bartender at Albi’s had fielded 14 long-distance phone calls that day to ask if it was true.[28]

The truth was, state laws had been reformed in the early 1970s and the long-simmering differences in culture between northern and southern Idaho came to a head when Stanley Crow, a so-called “moral crusader” from the southern part of the state accused Governor Andrus of taking bribes to allow Wallace’s houses to continue operations instead of enforcing the new laws.[29] Afterward, the story goes, local businessmen Harry Magnuson and Hank Day got on the phone to Governor Andrus and said, “You run your end of the state and we’ll run ours.”[30] So the houses didn’t shut down for long, but the rooms on the second floors did operate more quietly for a while.

Police regulation appears to have ended in 1973, although the madams still enjoyed protection and continued donating money into a community fund managed by the chamber of commerce. Later claims that this amounted to bribery and corruption were not substantiated during two subsequent trials—it would be a misunderstanding of the community attitude and the legal evidence to interpret the arrangement the madams had with the town as anything other than mutually beneficial, reciprocal, and according to a 1977 study, was embraced by 75-80 percent of Wallace citizens.[31]

According to police records there was a house called the Sahara that employed four girls during the year of 1973, but nobody really seems to remember this house, and it’s possible that the Arment operated under this name for a brief time of back-stairs-entry-only during the temporary closure of 1973. That’s just an educated guess. Dolores apparently operated the Lux as a “massage parlor” for a short period of time during this year, until concerns subsided and operations resumed as before, in an open secret, regionally accepted manner.

There were five established houses, all located on the second floors of downtown buildings. The Lux was at 212 ½ 6th St. with access from Kelly’s Alley, The Arment was above 601 Cedar St. until 1977, when it turned into the relocated Lux.

The Oasis was above 605 Cedar St, where the museum is today. Ginger, madam from 1963 until its closure, moved to Wallace from Hollywood, California.

Ginger. (Photo by Heather Branstetter, with thanks to Eva Truean, Oasis Bordello Museum)

Ginger. (Photo by Heather Branstetter, with thanks to Eva Truean, Oasis Bordello Museum)

Like Luoma, Ginger wasn’t very public around town, but she also donated to local causes such as the annual mining competition.[32] She drank black velvet and wore three hundred dollar pajamas, leaving her house only to make trips to the bank and to sign legal papers from time to time.[33] Her house, at 605 ½ Cedar, featured an incredible number of mirrors, following in the tradition of brothels like the Everleigh Club in Chicago and Babe Connors’s Palace in St. Louis.[34]

Oasis Door. (Photo by Heather Branstetter, with thanks to Eva Truean and the Bordello Museum)

Oasis Door. (Photo by Heather Branstetter, with thanks to Eva Truean and the Bordello Museum)

The Oasis is now a museum and novelty shop, preserved in much the way Ginger left it when she and the girls left town.

"In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash -- Casey" sign (Photo by Heather Branstetter, with thanks to Eva Truean and the Bordello Museum)

“In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash — Casey” sign (Photo by Heather Branstetter, with thanks to Eva Truean and the Bordello Museum)

611 ½ Cedar St. was home to the Western until 1953, the Jade until 1967, and then the Luxette until the late 1980s. The U&I Rooms, referred to by the University of Idaho college students in Moscow as the school’s “northern branch,” was located above 613 Cedar St. Lee Martin came to Wallace in the 1960s and ran the U&I Rooms at 613 ½ Cedar until its closure.

U&I Rooms Matchbook Image. (Photo by Heather Branstetter, with thanks to John Hansen)

U&I Rooms Matchbook Image. (Photo by Heather Branstetter, with thanks to John Hansen)

Once you were friends with Lee, you were friends for life[35]—she was known for being loyal to her people, and once sent $500.00 to some local guys who’d run into trouble and gotten themselves stranded in Colorado.[36] Her approach to keeping the girls happy was to ensure they had a social life, so it was common during the 1970s and 80s for locals to go up to the U&I just to hang out and drink.[37] Some of them became so close that they called themselves “the family.”[38] Although you didn’t see the girls out at the bars around town, they did socialize more during the later years, developing friendships with local women as well.[39] Tanya arrived on the scene during the early 1970s. People talk about what a rookie she was when she first arrived but she was smart, liked her job, and had a head for business, so she advanced to a leadership role quickly,[40] assuming most of the management duties at the U&I by 1985.

1982 Seattle Times Article.

1982 Seattle Times Article. (Click on the picture once and then in the new window that opens, click again to zoom and read the article)

The U&I, in the written record as early as 1905, would hang on until 1991, outlasting the others. The Oasis shut down in January of 1988, the Lux and Luxette closed around the same time, due to Dolores’s Alzheimer’s disease increasing in severity, and finally in September of 1990 the U&I was mostly closed. It remained open in a quieter way until early June of 1991, when, according to at least one account, an FBI agent confessed to Tanya “in a moment of weakness,” warning her that a large raid targeting the illegal gambling would soon take place, and they should take the opportunity to leave town for good.[41]

1989 Idaho Statesman Article.

1989 Idaho Statesman Article

Word is everything had mostly died down anyway, that the local economy could no longer support the workforce it had previously (unemployment soared to between 20-40%) and AIDS had really put a damper on the demand for the girls’ work. The century of brothels in Wallace was over, and the town transitioned into a tourism community, moving from selling sex to selling the past.

Image from Lux-Luxette Calendar. (Photo by Heather Branstetter, from personal collection)

Image from Lux-Luxette Calendar. (Photo by Heather Branstetter, from personal collection)

By Heather Branstetter, with generous support provided by The Wallace District Mining Museum and Virginia Military Institute.

If you would like to learn about the locations of the brothels through the years, along with maps, you can find that information HERE.

Personal Interviews and Research Assistance

Thank you so much for your contributions to and participation in this project:

Mitch Alexander

John Amonson

Katie & Joe Bauer

“Betty”

“Bobby C”

Ken & Joann Branstetter

Mike & Nancy Branstetter

Dick Caron

Terry Douglas

Bob Dunsmore

Sam Eismann

Mike Feiler

Merrill Field

Nick Fluge

Penny Caron Garr

Fred & Debbie Gibler

Kristi Gnaedinger

John & Sue Hansen

Tom Harman

Rod Higgins

Patti Houchin

Archie Hulsizer

Butch Jacobson

Richard Magnuson

Michelle Mayfield

Jim & Peggy McReynolds

Penny Michael

Lynn Mogensen

Bill & Karen Mooney

Gary Morrison

Moe Pellissier

John Posnick

Justin Rice

Ron Roizen

Chase Sanborn

Patty Schaeffer

Tammy Schonhanes

Julie Austin Stewart

Eva Truean

Dick Vester

I am also grateful to be surrounded by incredibly smart professional colleagues and mentors who have influenced and inspired my thinking on this project. Dan Anderson, Risa Applegarth, Gordon Ball, Kelly Bezio, Erin Branch, Julie Brown, Jameela Dallis, Jane Danielewicz, Sarah Hallenbeck, Jordynn Jack, Kristen Lacefield, Jim McReynolds, Chelsea Redeker, Lindsay Rose Russell, Rose Mary Sheldon, and Todd Taylor: thank you so much for your contributions, advice, and encouragement.

Bibliography and Notes

Abbott, Karen. Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul. New York: Random House, 2007. Kindle Edition.

“Board of Health Inspects City’s Restricted District.” Idaho Press, 12 October, 1911.

“Five Brothels Shut in an Idaho Town.” Special to the New York Times, 5 November 1973, pg 17, via ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

Powell, Cynthia S. Beyond Molly B’Damn: Prostitution in the Coeur d’Alenes, 1880-1911. MA Thesis, Central Washington University, 1994.

Shoshone County Courthouse District Court Records.

Smith, Donna Krulitz. “It Will All Come Out in the Courtroom”: Prohibition in Shoshone County, Idaho. MA Thesis, University of Idaho, 2004.

Wallace City Council Minute Books.

White, Mary Gordon. “A Child’s Eye View” Personal Narrative. Wallace District Mining Museum Archival Collection.

[1] Powell 51.

[2] “The Stiletto. It is Used by One of the Fallen Sisterhood with Serious Result.” Wallace Press 10 October 1891, qtd. in Powell 74 and Moynahan.

[3] Shoshone County Court House, District Court Office, Index to Register of Criminal Actions; Proceedings Book B, No 497, qtd. in Powell 48.

[4] Powell 48 and 59.

[5] Tom Harman primary sources files in 2014 Wallace District Mining Museum (WDMM) Brothel Project digital repository.

[6] Spokesman-Review articles in Dick Caron files, 2014 WDMM Brothel Project digital repository. City of Wallace, City Council Record Book, 28 October 1901 to 10 September 1906, Minutes of Council Chamber, 24 April 1905, qtd. in Powell 104-105.

[7] Powell 104.

[8] Powell 104.

[9] Powell 104.

[10] City of Wallace Council Minute Books, 1913-1916, pgs 30-36, 22 September 1913.

[11] City of Wallace Council Minute Books, 1916-1923, pg 167, 10 September 1917.

[12] Potlatch Forests Papers, MG 96 Box 4, “Military.”

[13] Mary Gordon White, “A Child’s Eye View,” personal narrative, WDMM archival collection.

[14] Wallace Press-Times 11/14/29, pg. 1

[15] Wallace City Council Minute Book 1931-1939, 24 August 1931, p. 423

[16] Ibid., pg 424. The legal description indicates this building was just behind and moving toward the East of where the Oasis is today.

[17] Wallace City Council Minute Books, 1931-1939, 14 December 1936, pgs 658-659.

[18] Wallace City Council Minute Books, 1939-1947, 8 January 1945, pg 958.

[19] Wallace City Council Minute Books, 1939-1947, Ordinance 292, 24 March 1947, pg 1024-1028. The State of Idaho and Shoshone County each received a quarter of this money, while the city kept half (pg 1026).

[20] Wallace City Council Minute Books, 1947-1960, Ordinance 300, January 1949, pg. 1085.

[21] Richard Magnuson told me (2014 interview) he thought the Oasis was called the Club Rooms. Police records document that it was known as the Oasis by 1952.

[22] Picture records, Barnard-Stockbridge Collection. Town of origin information, Lynn Mogensen and Eva Truean (2014).

[23] Personal Interview with Gary Morrison (2010).

[24] “Five Brothels Shut in an Idaho Town.” Special to the New York Times, 5 November 1973, pg 17, via ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

[25] Personal Interview with Richard Magnuson (2014).

[26] Reverend Dr. Jim Ranyon personal narrative (2008) in Dick Caron files, WDMM Brothel Project digital repository.

[27] Phone Interview with Penny Garr (2014).

[28] “Five Brothels Shut in an Idaho Town.” Special to the New York Times, 5 November 1973, pg 17, via ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

[29] Personal Interview with Richard Magnuson (2010 and 2014).

[30] Personal Interview with Dick Vester (2010).

[31] Buddy Miles Survey on Attitudes Toward Prostitution, MA Thesis, Washington State University, 1977.

[32] Personal interview with Penny Michael. The Oasis Rooms is listed, along with the Lux and Luxette, among the contributors to the first contest in 1984 (can be found in primary sources in the digital 2014 WDMM Brothel Collection).

[33] Personal Interview with “Art” (2010) and Richard Magnuson (2014).

[34] Abbott, Karen. Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul. New York: Random House, 2007. Kindle Edition. Chapter One, Kindle Locations 340-345.

[35] Personal Interview with Patti Houchin (2014)

[36] Story independently told during personal interviews with Bill Mooney (firsthand knowledge of the story, 2014) and John Posnick (secondhand knowledge of the story, 2010).

[37] Personal Interviews with Chuck Roberts (2014) and Bill Mooney (2014).

[38] Personal Interview with Chuck Roberts (2014).

[39] Kristi Gnaedinger (2014), Patti Houchin, (2014).

[40] Personal Interview with Kristi Gnaedinger (2010, 2014), Chuck Roberts (2014), and Bill Mooney (2014).

[41] Personal Interview with Sue Hansen (2010 and 2014).

Please tell me what you think:

“just like any other business”? (morality and sex work part two)

From time to time, Wallace makes it onto another one of those “cool small towns in America” lists, here, #38. Although this latest list celebrates the “rich history and culture” you find in small towns, it fails to plug the Oasis Bordello Museum, which was mentioned in Travel + Leisure’s 2012 list and Budget Travel’s 2009 list (which also features my current town, strangely). If the article’s authors had actually spoken with the people living in Wallace, amid the “large pine-topped mountain peaks and breathtaking sunsets downtown” long enough to talk about the brothel-based sex work aspect of the town’s history they would have heard something like this:

“The houses prevented rapes.”

“They gave back a lot to the community.”

“It’s just like any other business.”

Whenever I talk about Wallace’s brothel-based sex work history and culture to a group of outsiders, I inevitably get asked these questions:

“How do you feel about it?”

“Do you think it’s immoral?”

“Should we legalize prostitution?”

Recently, at the Lexington Rotary Club talk I gave, I was asked these very questions, and they led to some of the more lively moments of the discussion. But they were also the moments when I felt least committed to what I was saying, because in some ways I don’t have a “position.” And I come from a place—am trying to translate the cultural values of this place—that continues to justify sex work as a positive thing. Or at least as a not-bad thing. Like, overwhelmingly so. So much so that I sometimes forget that a lot of people think that sex work cannot be anything other than inherently exploitive, immoral, and/or degrading for women.

I’m going to go ahead and do something I’m hesitant about and get a little personal…

Continue reading

locations of wallace brothels 1891-1991: podcast episode, maps, and transcript

“About the widest open, most flagrantly and shamelessly wicked city for its size in America.”

Idaho Press, 3 September 1908,
qtd. in Cynthia Powell’s Thesis,
Beyond Molly B’Damn (1994), p. 144.

sanborn fire insurance maps of wallace through the years, with brothel locations in purple:

1891

1891

1892

1892

1896

1896

1901

1901

1905

1905

1908-1912

1908-1912

1927

1927

1930-1946

1930-1946

1950s

1950s

1960s-1990s

1960s-1990s

transcript of podcast (and citations–see bibliography page for more information):

By 1891:

 “Liquor licenses were required and several women paid the standard fee of fifty-one dollars for a peimit. In Wallace, Grace Edwards, Ione Skeels (Broncho Liz), Lottie Wilmington, and Lizzie Williams all purchased liquor licenses that year.”[i] The one on the south side of Cedar at 7th was Carrie Young’s house, which was pretty big, comparably, employing eight women, according to Powell.

One of the Pine Street houses—on the southwestern corner of fifth and Pine was The Star, a high-class brothel owned and operated by Gracie Edwards and Jerome B. Smith, who also operated houses in Wardner. The Star on Pine Street [which employed about six women, according to Powell] in Wallace “entertained customers in an environment of relaxed luxury.” Edwards knew how to create “the ambiance upper-class brothel patrons required.”[ii]

In 1892:

11-13 women worked in Wallace’s brothels. Nine of those businesses were along Pine Street and they mainly “catered to a mining and logging population.” Between 40-60 women worked in town during this time.[iii]

By 1895, madams were increasingly subjected to arrests and routine fines and “several showed up in arrest records between 1893 and 1904. Wallace madams arrested for keeping houses of prostitution included Blanche Burnard, who was arrested four times, Effie Rogan who was arrested five times, and Jessie Stuart who had just one arrest.”[iv]

Between 1896 and 1901:

A large Saloon and Public Hall on the east side of sixth street near the river will turn into The Coliseum,” operated by Richard Daxon. It actually had a carousel stage, and men watched burlesque entertainment from a horseshoe-shaped gallery.[v] It was the largest of the theaters in town and could probably hold about one hundred people. “The Trilby,” “the Wigwam,” “the Arcade,” and “the Show Shop,” were other disreputable theaters during this era [1893-1904].[vi]

“In November 1900, a deliberate attempt to alter the location of prostitution was evident in the city council records. ‘Reverend Brown appeared before Council and presented a petition signed by one hundred two residents of the city, asking that all houses of prostitution be removed from Blocks Fifteen and Sixteen.’ [Between Cedar Street and the River, between 4th and 5th street. The fire maps don’t indicate any houses on block sixteen, but Gracie Edwards’s higher end one was on block fifteen.] It is likely that churches and schools, which had previously moved into that area of town, were finding the brothels and cabins frequented by prostitutes intolerable.”[vii] 

1901:

Is the first time Avenue A, the alley north of Cedar Street in Block 23, is featured on a map, although it’s probably the case that the Alley already had cribs established in the early 1890s.[viii]

Carrie Young’s house on 7th and Cedar where Samuels Hotel would later be is now gone, and she’s probably relocated to a “dressmaking” shop in the place where City Hall is now.[ix]

Around the turn of the century much of the sex work took place within the context of bawdy theaters and dance halls, which had high turnover rates and alcoholism.[x] “[M]adams lost their control over the sexual trade. Once allies and business associates of madams, powerful liquor dealers began to distance themselves from overt associations with madams. Mortgage records no longer evidenced madams borrowing money from liquor dealers. By 1901, county liquor licenses were prohibitively high at five hundred dollars per year.”[xi]

1903-1905:

Most of the brothels have relocated to Block 23, the triangle patch of land north of Cedar Street between the river and sixth. It does appear that President Roosevelt’s 1903 visit was a catalyst for the geographical movement, but there had been a general movement of the town toward a more grounded and less transient lifestyle—churches and schools were moving into nearby areas on Pine Street near 5th and several petitions had already appeared before the city council during the preceding years, so it appears that the President’s visit was the excuse the town’s leaders needed to finally take action.

By May of 1903, an article in the Spokesman-Review would melodramatically proclaim:

The ‘fairies’ of scarlet color and deep shame have but one day more to reside in Wallace. Then Pine Street redlight district will be no more. The danger signal lights which hang out in front of the houses will be turned off; red curtains will be torn down; carousing, drunken men will be no longer heard in this portion of the town, which has long been filled with the lowest kind of life. All will be silence and darkness.[xii]

The headline and opening paragraph of this article suggest the complete closure of the red light district, but a careful reader from those days would have noticed the emphasis on the particular section of town. The final paragraph quietly adds that “The latest rumor, and it is believed to be true, is that the city officials wish to only change the redlight district to another section of the city,” mentioning block 23 as the future location.[xiii] The article ends by saying that because the city leaders don’t want to be in the business of determining who is allowed to live in Wallace and who isn’t, and “it is generally believed they are willing to allow these women who ply their trade to establish in a new district.”[xiv] It’s unclear exactly what this concession accomplishes, aside from countering the idea that the mayor can and should run some women out of town on the basis of their moral character; the paper now appears to be making a “live and let live” sort of argument to the reading public.

A May 22 article more explicitly connects vice district reformation to Roosevelt’s visit, giving the impression that the houses are shutting down temporarily—most of the girls have been instructed to leave town with the understanding that construction for housing will begin along the river east of 6th street, “immediately after the reception of the president next Tuesday.”[xv] The paper adds that the “landladies say they will willingly move to another section if lodging apartments are provided.”[xvi]

(Confinement within block 23 might not have been complete until the next few years. Even though there was movement toward establishing the new district as early as 1903, there were probably still some stranglers in other parts of the city. By 1905, Rossi declared to the city council that prostitution was “a necessary evil” that it must be limited “to its present quarters with a strong hand,”[xvii] recommending that ‘a sectional high fence permitting the passage of teams, be erected in the alley landing east from Sixth below Cedar Street.’ Within a month the matter of the fence, which would obscure prostitution from the rest of the city, was set into motion, and the overseer of streets had instructions to “construct said fence at once.[xviii]

In personal interviews, I’ve heard its existence independently asserted by Dick Magnuson, Archie Hulsizer, and Justin Rice. Mary White Gordon mentions it in her narrative, “A Child’s Eye View,” which is in the archives at the Mining Museum. It’s not something that was featured on the Sanborn maps, though, and it’s not the kind of thing that would be featured, according to Magnuson.[xix])

1908-1912:

More houses appear in Alley A, and a big building with skylights and cribs (Surprise Theater and Palm Garden) shows up between the east end of the alley and the river. It was the largest of all the Wallace bawdy theaters at this time, and “in one raid, sixty people scattered when the police entered the premises. Twelve [women] worked in the Palm Garden portion of the business.”[xx]

The attitude of the community members against the dance halls was catalyzed by the Feburary 1906 suicide of a young man in connection with the Arcade. For the first time in the city’s history, “moral concerns rather than business interests were emphasized”: The reformers’ arguments relied on the position that “young men are, and have been, debauched, even into suicide,” and that “young women are being imported for immoral purposes,” simultaneously proposing that the women were victims as well as predatory seducers. [xxi] Wallace businessmen agreed with the reformers’ arguments, although they were probably mainly interested in protecting the commercial interests of the town, which had, by 1908, been declared “about the widest open, most flagrantly and shamelessly wicked city for its size in America.”[xxii]

(The city passed an ordinance preventing doors from opening into areas of prostitution: “In December of 1908, the Council voted to close all doors that connected saloons to ‘rooms occupied for immoral purposes.’”[xxiii] And by 1910, men were in charge of all disreputable dance halls, bawdy theaters, and saloons in Wallace. “Madams running small brothels were relegated to Avenue ‘A.’ Located behind a fence which obscured them from Sixth Street, a small number of madams operated from buildings behind saloons.[xxiv]…. Although women still sometimes managed the prostitution, they lost most of their economic and political power and would not get it back until after the repeal of prohibition.[xxv] By 1909 the only disreputable dance hall left in Wallace was Dan McInnis’s Arcade, on the northeast section of 6th Street near the river. It closed in 1911: “With the closing of the bars in the Arcade Theater today, one of the last of the west’s notorious dance halls passed into history…. Like the dance halls which have gone before it, the Arcade was a combination of women, wine and song. It consisted of its bars, its dance floor and stage and its curtained boxes.”[xxvi])

“Mary Bessette managed the greatest number of women on ‘the Alley.’ Six women who ranged in ages from twenty to thirty-one worked for her. Only four women worked for madam Connie Foss, also on ‘the Alley.’ Another woman, Hellen Temple, managed two prostitutes. Effie Rogan, a long-time Wallace madam and former proprietor of ‘The Reliance,’ lived with two other women on the alley.[xxvii] One, Daisy Brown, claimed her occupation as a dressmaker. The other, Jeneva Black, reported herself to the census taker as a hairdresser. They were probably both prostitutes, for within a year, Rogan was in district court on charges of keeping a house for the purpose of prostitution.[xxviii] Rogan ran into further trouble in 1912 when the District Court convicted her on a charge of white slavery.”[xxix] …A total of ten other women worked either independently or with a prostitute partner on ‘the Alley’ in 1910.[xxx]

1927-1930

Throughout Prohibition and the depression eras, according to Mary Gordon White (whose parents built the Richard Magnuson home at 301 Cedar St), the restricted district had a high fence around some of the buildings. In a personal narrative, she wrote that this section of town was quiet and unnoticed: “I don’t remember at all how I eventually found out that this was a thriving red-light district and had steady business, but when it was payday at the mines the place was really jumping.”[xxxi]

Wallace’s brothels mainly remained in the restricted district, although there were some outliers in canyons as well as in reputable hotels through town. One of these was called The Metropolitan. Located at 411 Cedar, just west of the Elks lodge, it had a reputation for being the kind of place where you could go for sexual favors.

(On October 2, 1922, a case was dismissed by District Judge Featherstone because the prosecutor declined to pursue it. The case notes have Anna Watson accused of “maintaining a common nuisance within a prohibition district. Her crime was: “That heretofore, to wit, on or about the 20th day of January, 1922, in and at the County of Shoshone, State of Idaho, the said Anna Watson did then and there knowingly, willfully and unlawfully occupy, maintain and control a place, to-wit, that certain building known as the ‘Metropolitan Hotel,’ located upon Lot Fifteen (15), Block Fifteen (15) [between 4th and 5th street], fronting on Cedar Street, in the City of Wallace, Shoshone County, Idaho, where intoxicating liquors were sold, delivered, furnished, given away or otherwise disposed of in violation of law, and where persons were permitted to resort for the purpose of drinking intoxicating liquors as a beverage and where intoxicating liquors were kept for sale, delivery or disposition in violation of law” …)

In general, though, Wallace working girls would remain on block 23 until the last house’s closure in 1991. A man named Henry Kottkey, interviewed in 1980 regarding the depression era for an oral history collection project, said “Wallace has…deserved a lot of credit for their management of the prostitution set up. They have…it has been very much controlled, they don’t have any problem on the streets…”[xxxii] When asked if prostitution is illegal or quasi-legal, Kottkey responded that “I don’t know. I really don’t know. I think the law enforcement people—your leadership in the community, has, has, might say, tolerated, under certain restrictions—with certain restrictions, the existence of them.”[xxxiii]

(Maidell Clemets adds that Kellogg didn’t have much prostitution, but Wallace did. […] And ah, they ah, they had a lot of prostitution there. That’s right. It was wide open. Even held on through the ‘30s there were prostitutes in the community.”[xxxiv])

1930-1946

(In August of 1931, The Health and Sanitation Committee, along with the fire chief and chief of police recommended to the city council that the brick building on Avenue A owned by Anna Brass, alias Mrs. Julius Brass, should be torn down.[xxxv] The committee explained that the property “is so dilapidated and/or is in such condition so as to menace the public health and/or safety of persons and/or property on account of increased fire hazard and/or otherwise.”[xxxvi] The council ordered Anna Brass to have the building removed within ten days, or else the city would demolish it for her and tax her for the cost of the destruction. At this same time, the city also drew the same conclusions regarding the “Frank Flood Estate,” also on Avenue A.[xxxvii])

By 1933, Prohibition had been repealed and the town’s taverns were once again able to operate more openly. Bar owners were required to buy bonds at $250 dollars apiece [, along with a fee of $6.25, ] for the privilege of selling beer again.[xxxviii] During this period of time, the brothels seem to be pretty much under the purview of the Health Officer and the Street & Alley Committee.

The second world war meant that the economy was thriving once again, and the invention of Penicillin meant that venereal diseases could be treated with a simple course of antibiotics. Even though Wallace was off-limits to the military men during the war, they found ways to get around this rule: the sailors would get a bus pass that said they were going to Missoula and then instead of going to Montana, they would get off in Wallace so they could visit the houses. Then they would catch the bus back to the base as it came through again on its way back from Missoula.[xxxix] The sailors were not allowed to wear anything but their issued uniforms and the madams wouldn’t let them upstairs unless they were in street clothes, but again, they found a clever way to subvert the rules while still maintaining appearances otherwise. The dry-cleaning business in the vacant lot next door to the brothels would rent civilian clothes, so the sailors would go in the back door with their uniforms on and then go out the front door in their rented clothes. Most the people in town knew exactly what was going on, but nobody really disapproved of this arrangement, because everything looked very proper on the surface.[xl]

Slot machines appeared in about the 1930s, which was when “people really went to gambling.”[xli] Licenses for the machines, called “coin-operated amusement devices” and off-limits to anyone under 20, were accepted as legal after March 24, 1947, with the State of Idaho and Shoshone County each receiving ¼ of the money, while the City of Wallace kept ½.[xlii]

[The License fees collected totaled $21,750.00, and the following people/establishments applied: Albertini’s (4), Louviers (5), Armani (2), Vets Club (8), Dom Feroglia (5), Wallace Corner (8), Elks Club (9), Streeter & Johnson (3), James Lynn (3), Eagles Lodge (6), M.J. Savich (1), Ruth Poska (2), and Bessie Ricard (2).[xliii]]

1950s

These events led to a renaissance of sorts in the business; the houses did very well after the war ended, and so this time period was more or less the post-pioneer era “heyday.”

During this time prostitution was widely embraced and regulated by the town. Penicillin’s availability and effectiveness led to changing attitudes about sexuality nationally, and lessened the consequences of promiscuous or commoditized sex. [xliv] Every woman who came into town had her picture taken by Nellie Stockbridge and she also checked in and out with the police, who ran her rap sheet through the FBI records to see if there were items of concern and to double-check that she was over the age of 21.

Photographic records indicate that Dolores Arnold first came to town in 1943, but she wouldn’t begin operating the Lux until 1947. Luoma Delmonte first came to town in 1945 and began running the Jade in 1953. Dolores and Luoma ensured that the women they employed would not solicit on the streets nor drink in the bars around town. The madams donated liberally to the city coffers and special community events, such as raffle tickets the kids would sell for various fundraisers, bicycles as prizes for fishing derbies held in the city pool (which had been drained, filled with creek water, and planted with fish), and band uniforms, which is the thing that everyone mentions the most. Dolores was most known for her generosity to the kids around town, while Luoma gave a lot of money to the Catholic church.

1960s-1990s

1973 New York Times Article

1973 New York Times Article

In the late 1960s-70s, the structure and physical locations of the brothels began to change, making way for Ginger of the Oasis and Lee Martin of the U&I to assume greater leadership roles. Ginger took over management of the Oasis in 1963, and by 1966 she was also at least half owner of the Arment, although management there turned over and she remained madam at the Oasis. Luoma sold the Jade to Dolores in 1967 (she got married and moved to Seattle, Tacoma, or Portland, depending who you talk to), and Dolores expanded there, calling her new house the Luxette, causing people to joke that she now had a franchise operation.

So during this time, there were five established houses: The Lux, on 6th street with access from Kelly’s Alley, The Arment at 601 ½ Cedar, The Oasis, The Jade and then Luxette at 611 ½ Cedar, and the U&I Rooms above 613 Cedar.

[According to police records there was a house called the Sahara that employed four girls during the year of 1973, but nobody really seems to remember this house, and it’s possible that the Oasis operated under this name for a brief time of back-stairs-entry-only during the temporary closure of 1973. That’s just an educated guess, because during this year, there was a change in Idaho law and federal policy, which led to a brief shutdown. So-called “moral crusaders” began in southern Idaho and worked their way north to enforce new anti-prostitution laws on the books. The houses shut down for a while, taking their signs down and putting padlocks on the doors for show. They reopened quietly after a short time, and operated in a more underground way for a while. Dolores apparently operated the Lux as a “massage parlor” for a short period of time during this year, until concerns subsided and operations resumed as before, in an open secret, regionally accepted manner.]

Police regulation appears to have ended in 1973, although the madams still enjoyed protection and continued donating money into a community fund managed by the chamber of commerce. Later claims that this amounted to bribery and corruption were not substantiated during two subsequent trials—it would be a misunderstanding of the community attitude and the legal evidence to interpret the arrangement the madams had with the town as anything other than mutually beneficial, reciprocal, and according to a 1977 study, embraced by 75-80 percent of Wallace citizens.

In 1977, the State of Idaho bought the building the Lux was in, because there were talks about the freeway coming through town there, and so that house moved to 601 ½ Cedar St., causing the permanent closure of the Arment Rooms, which Dolores remodeled using gold-colored paint for the trim. Lee Martin assumed management of the U&I in the 1960s or early 1970s and her approach to keeping the girls happy while working was to provide them with a social life[xlv]; during the 1970s-80s she ensured the boys around town would come up and hang out in the kitchen, and some of them became so close that they called themselves “the family.”[xlvi] Although you didn’t see the girls out at the bars around town, they did socialize more during the later years, and developed friendships with local women as well.[xlvii] Tanya took over most of the management work at the U&I by 1985, and this house outlasted the others. The Oasis shut down in January of 1988, the Lux and Luxette closed around the same time, due to Dolores’s Alzheimer’s disease increasing in severity, and finally in September of 1990 the U&I was mostly closed. It remained open in a quieter way until early June of 1991, when, according to at least one account, an FBI agent confessed to Tanya “in a moment of weakness,” warning her that a large raid would soon take place, and they should leave town for good.[xlviii] Word is everything had mostly died down anyway, that the local economy could no longer support the workforce it had previously (unemployment soared to between 20-40%) and AIDS had really put a damper on the demand for the girls’ work, so the time was over, and Wallace transitioned into a tourism community, moving from selling sex to selling the past. Later that year, as the freeway began moving in overhead, the town buried its last literal red light and hauled the depot across the river to the area formerly home to its last figurative red light.

[i] Powell, 41. She cites: Wallace Press, 7 February 1891.

[ii] Powell, 40. She cites: Shoshone County Court House, Mortgage Books J and K; Coeur d’Alene Miner, 25 October, 1890; “Delinquent Tax List,” Coeur d’Alene Miner, 27 December 1890; “Delinquent Tax List of Wallace,” Wallace Press, 28 February, 1891; and Wallace Press, 20 December 1890. Wallace Press, 20 December 1890; and Mortgage Book J. Shoshone County Court Houses, Mortgage Books I, J, and K. Wallace Press, 20 December 1890 (Powell 94).

[iii] Powell 51

[iv] Powell 43. She cites: City of Wallace, Idaho, Police Record Journal, April 1893 – June 1908.

[v] Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Wallace, Idaho, 1901 and City of Wallace, Journal of Council Proceedings, March 1897 to 14 October 1901, Council Minutes for 27 May 1901.

[vi] Powell 99-100. The Arcade” was a combination of a bawdy theater and dance hall. See also Powell chapter five.

[vii] City of Wallace, City Council Proceedings Journal, March 1897 to 14 October 1901. Minutes of Council Chamber, 26 November 1900, qtd. in Powell 104

[viii] Powell 96

[ix] Powell 46 and 99

[x] Powell 43

[xi] Powell 43. She cites: Wallace Press, 30 March 1901.

[xii] “To Shut Off Red Lights.” The Spokesman-Review, 19 May, 1903.

[xiii] “To Shut Off Red Lights.” The Spokesman-Review, 19 May, 1903.

[xiv] “To Shut Off Red Lights.” The Spokesman-Review, 19 May, 1903.

[xv] “Obey Order of Wallace Mayor” The Spokesman-Review, 22 May, 1903.

[xvi] “Obey Order of Wallace Mayor” The Spokesman-Review, 22 May, 1903.

[xvii] Powell 104

[xviii] City of Wallace, City Council Record Book, 28 October 1901 to 10 September 1906, Minutes of Council Chamber, 24 April 1905, qtd. in Powell 104-105.

[xix] 30 July 2014, Wallace, Idaho, Personal Interview.

[xx] Daily Idaho Press, 3 May 1909, Powell 100.

[xxi] Powell 143

[xxii] Powell 144, see also Smith’s thesis

[xxiii] Daily Idaho Press, 6 November 1909, qtd. in Powell 107

[xxiv] Powell 48.

[xxv] Powell 47-48.

[xxvi] Spokesman Review, August 1909, quoted in Hart and Nelson, Mining Town: The Photographic, Record of T.N. Barnard and Nellie Stockbridge from the Coeur d’Alenes, 138.

[xxvii] Idaho Press, 6 December 1906, qtd. in Powell 48.

[xxviii] Shoshone County Court House, District Court Office, Index to Register ofCriminal Actions; Proceedings Book B, No 497, qtd. in Powell 48.

[xxix] Ibid., Proceedings Book B, No. 495 and 496, cited in Powell 48.

[xxx] U.S. Census, 1910: State of Idaho, cited in Powell 48.

[xxxi] “A Child’s-Eye View,” April 29, 2001, Wallace District Mining Museum Archives, “History of Wallace” folder, filing drawer labeled “Historic.” Justin Rice described the restricted district behind a gate during this time as well. He also mentioned a place called the Metropolitan Hotel as a brothel, and there is some evidence for that in the court records.

[xxxii] Barton, (Henry Kottkey) “Appendix B: Informant Transcriptions,” p. 151

[xxxiii] Barton, “Appendix B: Informant Transcriptions,” p. 152

[xxxiv] Barton, (Maidell Clemets) “Appendix B: Informant Transcriptions,” p. 323-324

[xxxv] Wallace City Council Minute Book 1931-1939, p. 423

[xxxvi] Ibid.

[xxxvii] Ibid., p. 424. The legal description for the Flood properties was, “partly on lot 7 and on an unnumbered lot in rear of lots 5, 6, and 7 on Block 23,” which would make these buildings right behind and moving toward the East of where the Oasis (lot 5) is today.

[xxxviii] Wallace City Council Minute Book 1931-1939, p. 501

[xxxix] Mike Feiler, Telephone Interview, 16 August, 2010.

[xl] Ibid.

[xli] Barton, “Appendix B: Informant Transcripts,” 39

[xlii] Ordinance #292, Wallace City Council Minute Book 13 February 1939-16 September 1947, 24 March 1947, pgs 1024-1028.

[xliii] Wallace City Council Minute Book 13 February 1939-16 September 1947, 24 March 1947, pg 1028

[xliv] Francis, “Wages of Sin.”

[xlv] Mooney Interview

[xlvi] Roberts Interview

[xlvii] Kristi Gnaedinger 2014

[xlviii] Sue Hansen Interview—both 2010 and 2014