Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

October 18, 2002

THOSE EXCURSIONS into the Rose City's thorny past, published in the Portland Tribune under the illustrated logo "Portland Confidential by Phil Stanford," frequently mention a man named Stan Terry.

When I see the name of Stan Terry, a major player in the gambling rackets decades ago, I usually think of a cuppa coffee and a hamburger at the old Tik-Tok restaurant. The Tik-Tok, situated at 1230 East Burnside St., was a landmark at the busy intersection where Burnside, Sandy and several numbered avenues converge. Atop the Tik-Tok was a large illuminated revolving clock that ticked and tocked. After the Tik-Tok stopped ticking, the restaurant was razed and the site became a church parking lot, which it still is.

Although it wasn't exactly a place where the elite would meet to eat, the Tik-Tok attracted patrons from almost every walk of life. Some sat at the counter on stools covered with brightly-colored plastic while others sat in booths with the same decor.

ONE MID-MORNING in the last half of the1960s, a senior official in the criminal justice system phoned me at the Labor Press office in the then-still-new Labor Center at 201 SW Arthur St. to ask me to meet him for lunch at the Tik-Tok. He and I had known each other for almost a decade going back to my days as a reporter for the Oregonian newspaper prior to the strike, which ran from November 1959 to April 1965. Over lunch he voiced concern that Portland and the rest of Multnomah County might be facing an infestation of slot machines and other gambling devices and games. The reason for his concern was that the chairman of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners would soon appoint a new sheriff - and if the wrong man got the star, he might be a corrupt cop who'd open the county to widespread gambling. In those days, the county had gone from electing a sheriff to having one appointed by the county chair. Later, the county returned to electing its sheriffs.

The man across the booth from me said if the county was opened up to gambling, the guy who'd be running it would no doubt be Stan Terry. He reasoned that Stan had prior experience running slots and other forms of gambling in Portland and Multnomah County and he also had lotsa slots.

My companion noted that Terry's former competitors were either gone or lacked a large inventory of gaming devices.

THE SENIOR OFFICIAL followed up by telling me he saw me as the logical person to investigate Stan Terry and his slots in preparation for printing an exposŽ when and if a corruptible sheriff got appointed and Terry started operating big-time again. "It'd be a great story for the Labor Press," he said. I agreed and told him I'd start snooping around.

Back in those days, the Labor Press was still published on a weekly basis. As soon as the weekly issue went to press, I'd spend a day doing research on Stan Terry. I started by compiling a list of the properties he owned so I could eyeball their addresses and try to figure out where Stan stockpiled his slots. As I checked out the addresses of the real estate that Multnomah and Clackamas counties listed in Stan's name, I was surprised by the extent of his holdings. In Clackamas County, he owned a home in the upscale suburb of Lake Oswego and was the landlord of a large building in Milwaukie where a well-known company made some of its brand-name products. In Multnomah County, he was the landlord of a large apartment complex in Southwest Portland's Burlingame district.

TERRY ALSO OWNED some nondescript real estate in Multnomah County, including a frame house on SW Water St. not far from the west end of the Ross Island Bridge across the Willamette River. That house was sometimes the setting for card game gambling, I was told. It also was the office for "Stanley G. Terry Enterprises." A garbage collection service was among his enterprises, as was a nine-hole golf course at the Portland Meadows horse track. A commercial building on NE Alberta was listed as the address of "Stan Terry & Co., Coin Machine Service." It provided bars and other places with legitimate coin-operated machines.

But the Terry property I figured housed his illegal slot machines was a one-story structure without windows that was situated out on NE Sandy Blvd. To take photos of the building I contacted a former photographer from the old Portland Reporter, a tabloid daily started by the strikers at the Oregonian and Oregon Journal. The photog, a brash and brassy guy, Al Jessen by name, had not been involved in the strike but had drifted up from San Diego to enlist in our cause. When the Reporter's press, "Little David" - as in David versus Goliath - went silent after printing the Sept. 30, 1964 edition, Al went into the free-lance business out of a rented darkroom in Northwest Portland.

AL RODE SHOTGUN while I drove. We went out Sandy on the opposite side of the street from Terry's building. Luck was with us. The door was wide open, revealing a storage room chock-a-block with slot machines. At the curb in front was an inauspicious automobile with its hood up. Working on a problem under the hood was a young man who paid no attention to passing traffic. I turned around a few blocks up Sandy and drove back slowly. Al rolled down his passenger-side window and stuck his camera out in preparation for snapping the slots. As we approached, the young man obliged us by walking inside, apparently to obtain another tool for his repair work. He left the door wide open. I stopped alongside the disabled car while Al leaned out the window and quickly shot several photos. Then we went by some of Terry's other properties. The next morning Al brought me a package of crisp 8x10 black-and-white glossies of the slots and the other Terry-owned real estate we had driven by the day before. I put them in a box containing notes and other material I had collected about one Stanley G. Terry. The "other material" included clippings about Terry's past and the text of his testimony before a U.S. Senate Rackets Committee in the late 1950s in Washington, D.C. The text of Terry's testimony was provided by a friendly law enforcement captain. I figured that I had enough background on Stan Terry and now I'd just wait and see what was going to happen.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS precluded me from re-hashing Terry's history and running pictures of his slots. A sheriff was appointed who wasn't going to let gambling run rampant. As for Stan Terry, he had the misfortune to fall from the roof of his Lake Oswego home while doing some maintenance work. Afterwards, he seemed more interested in running for political office and taking care of his legitimate businesses than in being a big-time operator in the gambling rackets. When he ran for office in Portland or Multnomah County he'd use the SW Water St. house as his address. For running in Clackamas County, he'd use his Lake Oswego home's address. His political career was singularly unsuccessful.

At a public function for candidates I saw Terry standing by himself so I approached him - we knew each other - and I inquired what he was going to do with those slot machines stored out on NE Sandy. He said he was in the process of selling them to a buyer in another state. He didn't elaborate further. And he did not ask me how I knew where his slots were.

***

IF STAN TERRY, his predecessors and contemporaries, who ran gambling rackets in the United States back in the era when they were breaking the law, could see the legalized gambling of today, they'd shake their heads in wonderment.

In addition to the legal gambling that fuels Nevada and Atlantic City, most states have lotteries that generate revenues. And in many states, Indian tribes operate casinos that furnish employment for Indians and provide stipends for non-employed tribal members.

AMERICANS WHO WOULD object to paying higher taxes to pay for government services think nothing of feeding money into the state-run lottery machines that spew out tickets and those, such as video poker, which consume large sums of money even faster.

Many American workers lost their paychecks at illegal gambling houses, putting their families at risk, and some also waste their wages on legal games operated by states, causing the same ill effect on wives and children.

There are public officials who consider it immoral to use state-run gambling to finance public services, but they are in the minority at the present time.

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