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Leave The Gun; Take The Gelato

Local authors trace organized crime roots to a Central Ohio fruit stand. The lessons of The Godfather? Do not go against your own word. Do not go against your own family. Do not become predictable. And fruit means death is in the air. These were true even 60 years before Mario Puzo published his iconic novel. [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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Local authors trace organized crime roots to a Central Ohio fruit stand.

The lessons of The Godfather?

Do not go against your own word.

Do not go against your own family.

Do not become predictable.

And fruit means death is in the air.

These were true even 60 years before Mario Puzo published his iconic novel. The father-daughter writing team of David Meyers and Elise Meyers Walker has resurrected the forgotten story of the origins of organized crime in the United States. It began not in the gambling circles of New York or the bootleggers of Chicago, but in 1909 with an unsophisticated, inelegant, yet successful group called the Society of the Banana, operating from the back of a fruit store in a town that was the centerpoint of various shipping routes …

Marion, Ohio.

Their book, Ohio’s Black Hand Syndicate: The Birth of Organized Crime in America, published this year, traces the largely forgotten story of criminal events in Central Ohio that later became a model of mob prosecution.

Using essentially the same technique as a basic internet or telephone scam—a message threatening harm and a demand for money—the Society of the Banana and Faithful Friends, led by Salvatore “Sam” Lima, ran a multi-state extortion network likely responsible for at least 30 murders. “Black Hand,” a name roughly synonymous with the Mafia at the time, appeared as the signature on each letter.

“All they knew was what they brought with them,” says Meyers, explaining how early Italian immigrants came to an America with no resettlement programs, no language classes, and no easy ways to make a decent living.

One of the more available jobs for immigrants was to get a wagon and become a “franchiser” for an established business. In many cities, that was a fruit business, brought by foreigners who were used to having fruit available most of the year. For some vendors, it might be the beginning of prosperity. For others, it might be the introduction to a criminal network, a phenomenon that many were already familiar with.

“[Italian immigrants] came here not having experienced trust in government, not having experienced trust in law enforcement,” Meyers explained. “So when they experienced crime, they didn’t tell anybody.”

Murders, bombings, and assassinations splashed the headlines in local papers, which theorized the possibility of a single responsible organization. The publicity only increased the popularity of the letters—copycat, pranks, and actual. “What you needed was somebody to stand up to [the Black Hand], and not pay the money,” said Meyers.

That somebody was Columbus resident and Italian immigrant John Amicon, a wealthy fruit dealer.

“He was doing really well, and that made him a target, because the community could see that he was doing really well,” Meyers Walker explained. “He started to get letters, really threatening letters—we’re going to do these things to your family. We’re going to bomb you. We’re going to do all this stuff. And he said: one, I’m not paying, and two, I’m not going to put up with it.”

When a bomb appeared on his porch, Amicon contacted the authorities. Cue the US Postal Inspectors. (Yes, the mail fraud guys.)

Uninterested in bombings and murders, the US Postal Inspectors, one of two federal law enforcement organizations in existence at the time, began to trace the threatening letters crisscrossing the country. Enough evidence was gathered to conduct a raid, and bring the perpetrators to trial as an organized crime syndicate. Marion’s Lima was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

“I think it’s fair to say that this was a bit of a model for creative prosecution—the fact that they went after them on the mail charges, and you line that up with Al Capone getting taken down for tax evasion,” said Meyers Walker.

Uncovering local history can be intriguing, but learning from history is another matter. While too many are familiar with the images and stories of the Italian mafia, few are familiar with the Italian community members and law enforcement officers who fought against that terror by resisting threats, reporting activity, gaining the trust of the community, translating the letters, and infiltrating group activity. Even fewer know the stories of redemption that eventually emerged post incarceration.

“Since doing this, we’ve met descendants of people on both sides of the divide,” said Meyers Walker. “It’s really interesting. After [those prosecuted for Black Hand activity] got out of prison, they went back to where they were from in their towns in America and made something of themselves.”

The co-authors describe how former criminals opened restaurants, engaged with their communities, and raised children and grandchildren who led respectable lives and held positions of importance. Their descendants look back on their ancestors’ previous lives with an attitude of forgiveness, noting how young and isolated some of these men were and how unprepared they were as they tried to start their lives over in a new country.

“My opinion: we need immigrants,” said Meyers, who hopes that readers will see parallels between the situations of newcomers to America past and present. “We don’t need criminal immigrants; we’ve got some ways of rooting them out. But we do need immigrants. But we have to prepare them to succeed.”

Ohio’s Black Hand Syndicate: The Birth of Organized Crime in America is available now via Arcadia Publishing and the History Press, as well as on Amazon. For more, visit arcadiapublishing.com.

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Community

Oh Snap! Local photo studio helping bring Columbus’ imagination to life

614now Staff

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SPONSORED

We can only count on our memories to preserve moments so much, and word of mouth can only get us so far. Sometimes, a message needs to be captured with a shutter and presented with an image.

At Zurïe Studio you can bring your imagination to life and preserve special moments in one beautiful place at a reasonable price. The space features a sun-soaked studio and clean aesthetic, allowing the subjects of your photos to command the screen without distraction.

The studio also offers paper backdrops, stools, and minimal props to amplify your project, mini session, or photo shoot. All outside props are welcome, too, with a loading dock to make setup a breeze.

Speaking of mini, (614) Kids Club has teamed up with Zurïe to offer a FREE Family Holiday Mini Photography Session! Join us December 7th from 10am-Noon at Zurïe to have your picture snapped by LA + Co Photography.

This event is open to the public (as long as you get your ticket in advance), but (614) Kids Club members will receive:

  • (614) Kids Club Members get to skip the line
  • Two digital prints of their minis – for FREE

Click here to learn more and reserve your spot!

Whether it's head shots for the office, new products you want to promote, a creative vision that keeps you up at night, or just trying to get one nice picture of your family acting like the love one another, Zurïe is passionate about the people of Columbus, and will work with you to create something beautiful and memorable.

Zurïe Studio is conveniently located at 3477 N High St. in Clintonville, directly behind the new Katalina’s. They are open 8am- 5pm every day by appointment. To learn more and book your rental, visit zurie.co.

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Sports

The Big Ten: 10 reasons why Jim Harbaugh is an absolute nutcase

1870 Staff

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There’s no question Jim Harbaugh is a weirdo. He’s been caught picking his nose on the sidelines, he essentially wears the same outfit every single day no matter the occasion, and his personality is about as bright as a military general on cocaine. In other words, Harbaugh is set in his ways, and his ways are strange as shit.

But there’s more to this man’s madness than booger flicking and khaki pants. He’s a weirdo that wears many hats (but not many different variation of pants). And we have 10 reasons to prove it to you.

1.) Jim Harbaugh, the Spongebob fanatic.

To quote the coach on a radio show in Ann Arbor, “I love his attitude. He attacks each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind! I’ve kind of modeled my behavior after him. We all should. What a great employee he is. He’s a go-getter. He’s always got a bounce to his step. He’s got pizzazz. He puts his heart and soul into making those krabby patties. I think he’s awesome.” Uhhh, sure. Whatever you say, man.

2.) Jim Harbaugh, the house guest.

“Mom, can coach Harbaugh stay the night tonight?” Those were (probably) the words of Michigan’s current kicker, Quinn Nordin, as well as the defensive end from USC, Connor Murphy. In an effort to get the two recruits to commit to Michigan, Harbaugh took trips to visit the athletes. Perfectly normal. What’s not normal is Harbaugh crashing at the recruits house for the night. Dude, you are the third highest paid coach in college football. You’re either too cheap to buy a hotel, or you’re too odd to realize this was a weird ass move.

3.) Jim Harbaugh, the music man.

If you haven’t had the luxury of watching this music video, put this magazine down and pull up YouTube. Rap duo, Bailey, produced a Michigan hype song to promote the 2016 season titled “Who Has It Better Than Us?” which featured Harbaugh literally screaming those exact words for the chorus. This is just as much weird (Harbaugh’s rap career isn’t looking good) as it is ironic as the Wolverines would go on to lose to Ohio State and in their bowl game against Florida State. We can think of at least two schools that have it better than ya’ll…

4.) Jim Harbaugh, the conspiracy theorist.

He said they were a “nervous bird.” We’re not even gonna attempt to explain this. Here’s what a former Michigan quarterback, Wilton Speight, had to say to Bleacher Report about the hate against chickens: “He thinks some type of sickness injected its way into the human population when people began eating white meats instead of beef and pork. And he believes it, 100 percent.” … Riiiiight.

5.) Jim Harbaugh, the babysitter.

Turns out that fateful night he stayed with Connor Murphy wasn’t the first time. Harbaugh has stayed at the Murphy residence in the past, when he was a head coach at Stanford, to recruit Murphy’s brother, Trent. During the night, Connor and Trent’s mother went into labor forcing the father to take her to the hospital to give birth. As for Harbaugh and, at the time, 12-year-old Connor? Here’s what Connor told the LA Times: “Coach Harbaugh sat on my living room floor with me and we drank milk and played chess.”

6.) Jim Harbaugh, the patriotic music man.

If coaching doesn’t work, it seems like Harbaugh is eyeing a career in music. In 2016, rapper Lil Dicky came to Ann Arbor to preform. For reasons we have absolutely no way of understanding, Lil Dicky brought Harbaugh on stage to… sing the national anthem? And, as on brand as the mother fucker is, he was wearing those damn khakis for the performance. He probably flicked a few boogers backstage, too.

7.) Jim Harbaugh, the president?

Apparently rapper Wale and Jim Harbaugh are cooking something up for a presidential run. In 2016, Wale tweeted at the TTUN coach and endorsed him for a presidential campaign. Harbaugh responded back eager to bring Wale on as his Vice President. Let’s play a game, Buckeye Nation, would you rather have Trump as president, or Harbaugh?

8.) Jim Harbaugh, the khakis man.

We all know how much the man loves his Dockers, but do you really know how deep that love runs? The man worksout in his khakis. We’re sure that never gets too sweaty. The man swims—SWIMS!!—in his khakis. And he’s even been spotted running around the practice field shirtless showing off that pasty-white dad bod, but still in those damned khakis.

9.) Jim Harbaugh, the dietician.

We already know the man hates chickens, but did you know how much he loves cows? Almost as much as he loves khakis, believe it or not. Harbaugh is convinced that milk and steak are a “natural steroid.” Here’s what Harbaugh had to say about his affinity to “natural steroids” on a radio show in Ann Arbor: “I take a vitamin every day. It’s called a steak. … I truly believe the No. 1 natural steroid is sleep, and the No. 2 natural steroid is milk, whole milk. Three would be water. Four would be steak. [Steak] … it goes with everything.”

10.) Jim Harbaugh, the actor.

Why not? He’s a president, a singer, a rapper, a babysitter, and even a Spongebob stan. Of course he’s made a few appearances on television. The first time was on Saved By The Bell where he didn’t even get an excited “woo!” from the fake audience when he came on screen. Screech gets one every time he’s on camera and he’s a main character. The other time was when Harbaugh showed his true side on Detroiters for a skit. He loses his shit during a tailgating style game and ends up drilling the main character in the back of the head with a football. Okay so the Detroiters skit is actually kind of funny.•

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Sports

Top 5 times Ohio State broke Michigan’s heart in The Game

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Curtis Samuel Shows off His Madden Moves (2016)

For all Buckeye fans, this moment is unforgettable. After going down to Michigan in the second quarter, the two teams matched blows all game and even ended up in double overtime. After J.T. Barrett converted a fourth down, Curtis Samuel 15-yards to seal the win. Not only was Samuel’s TD amazing, it also cemented the Bucks’ place in the College Football Playoff while keeping TTUN out. Two birds with one stone.

Game of the Century (2006)

In the final iteration of the Buckeyes led by Troy Smith and Ted Ginn, Jr., the Buckeyes did not disappoint. This game had perhaps the largest implications of any on this list, because everyone in America pretty much knew that the winner would advance to the BCS National Championship game. Also: who could forget both Beanie Wells and Antonio Pittman going 50+ yards for touchdowns in the same game?

Ohio State Can’t Go to a Bowl Game… But They Also Aren’t Going to Lose (2012)

While Ohio State was dealing with a ban from bowl games, they didn’t stop wrecking opponents, and Michigan was no exception. Heading into the game, Michigan was the No. 20 team in the nation and had hopes for a win over their rival as well as moving up in the rankings to get a more prestigious bowl game. The Wolverines got neither.

Tyvis Powell is Clutch as Hell (2013)

This was one of the more competitive games in recent history. After being tied at halftime, the Bucks and Wolverines continued to trade blows until the very last moment. At the end of the game, Devin Gardner threw a touchdown to Devin Funchess to bring Michigan within 1 point and set up for a PAT. However, Michigan gambled for the win by going for two, and Tyvis Powell shut them down. It’s basically the Ohio State football equivalent of LeBron James’ block on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 NBA Finals, except Ohio State actually ended up winning.

Beat Michigan, then Win The Championship (2002)

Going into the game as the #2 team in the nation, Ohio State had amassed 12 wins before facing off against their bitter rival and were working on one of the best seasons in college football history. Seeing as Michigan had played spoiler to the Bucks’ perfect seasons three times in the ’90s, it felt like Michigan could keep Ohio State out of the BCS national championship, but Will Allen had other plans. With time expiring, Allen snagged an interception near the end zone that prevented the Wolverines from scoring a game winning touchdown. After that, Ohio State went on to beat Miami and win the BCS national championship. Talk about a story book ending for the Bucks — and a nightmare for the Wolverines.

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