How the Title Was Chosen

As I researched this book I noticed a pattern in Saratoga Springs. Gambling was allowed to a certain extent until one reformer or another made an attempt to stop it. There were occasional raids and sometimes the reformers were successful in stopping the gambling for a short time. Other times, there were raids and the gamblers kept right on gambling, seeming to have no fear of the law.

When the village of Saratoga Springs was established, the original charter specifically directed the police board to stop gambling. Not other forms of vice, like prostitution or selling liquor on Sunday, but gambling. The first temperance movement met in Saratoga Springs as did the first meeting of the American Bar Association. Early attempts were made to close John Morrissey’s place, raids were made by representatives of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and even Richard Canfield was raided.

Clearly there was always a law-and-order segment of the population of Saratoga Springs that wanted the town cleaned up but local officials and the majority of residents did not see the gambling as so much of a problem. In fact, John Morrissey was a sitting Congressman when he was operating his gambling place across from the railroad depot before he open the track and allowed gambling to be carried on there. Village residents elected Caleb Mitchell President of the village three times despite his owning and operating a gambling dive right on Broadway. Clearly, in the struggle between good and evil, evil seemed to always keep the upper hand in the first century of Saratoga’s history.

I found two articles where Richard Canfield expressed his views on gambling to a reporter. In the first article I was impressed at his ability to predict the future when he said that someday gambling would be licensed by the state with gamblers required to pay a large fee to the government and that the government would be active in regulating where and how the casinos would operate. It is amazing to me how closely New York State has followed Richard Canfield’s prediction when it comes to the question of gaming in the state in our time.

In the second article, Canfield explained why he continued to run a gambling operation and why his patrons continued to play even though the activity was against the law. Canfield said that gambling was a natural activity for men, and they would hazard anything in a friendly manner, even if the stakes were not high, for the pure enjoyment of it. Secondly he claimed that ninety-five percent of the population had gambled something at some time in their lives and were not willing to condemn a man who wagered his own money when they were likely to have done so themselves.

Canfield said, “…men will continue to gamble to the end of time and that all the law in the world won’t stop them.” As soon as I read the quote I knew I had the title of the book, as I can think of no better description of what the situation was like in Saratoga Springs from the 1820s through the 1950s. It truly seemed that all the law in the world would not stop the gamblers and the gangsters in Saratoga.

How the Book Came to Be.

One of my earliest memories is walking up the hill at High Rock Park to the building where the Olde Bryan Inn is today. When I was a small child relatives of mine lived in the building and there was some type of family gathering there. One of the elder Veitch men told me a story about my great-grandfather, Sid Veitch.

The story was that Sid Veitch was once in a car with some gangsters when they shot a guy and dumped his body at the hospital. When the police asked Sid what he knew about the murder, Sid told them that he couldn’t help them since he was in the front seat and the guys that shot him were in the back seat. The absurdity of Sid’s answer seemed to amuse the Veitch men, and it amused me too.

The story of Sid Veitch’s antics with the police always remained in the back of my mind, but I never knew any of the details. After college I was hired by the Saratoga Springs Police Department and worked my way up to become the commander of the detective division.

One day a retired detective called me and asked me to take a second look at an old case from the 1980’s. When I went down to the archives and finished with the detective’s request, curiosity got the better of me and I took a look for the oldest case report we had on file.

I discovered a folder with the words “Parillo Murder” written on it. The case was from 1936 and was the oldest case file I could find. Being a bit of a history buff, I started to read the contents. To my amazement the story was of a man who was shot and dumped at the hospital. Even more interesting to me was the story itself was an incredible tale of an unsolved gangland murder.

Eventually, I researched further the murder and gave a presentation at the Saratoga Springs History Museum. When I was finished a friend of mine said, “you should write a book.”

By then I had discovered many tales from Saratoga Springs’ past that were as interesting to me as the Parillo murder. True stories of gambling, crime and corruption were a part of Saratoga’s past that would challenge any creative mind to come up with on their own.

By writing this book of the history of gambling, crime and corruption to 1921 in Saratoga Springs, I hope to give residents and visitors an accurate picture of the conditions at Saratoga Springs during the roughly first one hundred years of the town. I also hope that the book will serve as a resource for future researchers on the topic.