Living

The Paddock Club offered alcohol and gambling on ‘the strip’ in Biloxi before it was legal

Customers at the Biloxi Paddock Club enjoy live entertainment. Postcard
Customers at the Biloxi Paddock Club enjoy live entertainment. Postcard Paul Jermyn

This circa 1951 postcard shows the interior of the Paddock Club that was originally opened on U.S. 49 about a mile north of the beach in 1940.

In 1950 the business moved to West Beach Biloxi in an area then known as “the strip.”

This stretch of U.S. 90 was generally located between Rodenburg Avenue on the east and the Broadwater Hotel (now Treasure Bay) on the west, where nightclubs, lounges, restaurants, hotel/motels and tourist attractions flourished.

The club offered live performers of stage, radio, recording and Broadway fame, and it hosted individual and organization parties. But that isn’t all that the club offered.

A person could also find a bar (alcoholic beverages were illegal in Mississippi at the time) craps, roulette, slot machines, and a bookie that accepted bets on horse racing and various sports from local customers and from those in other cities throughout Mississippi and the South.

The Paddock was one of the clubs in Biloxi and on the Mississippi Coast that became embroiled in the federal investigation of crime that was conducted nationwide by Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver and a five man committee during the early 1950s. One of the the Paddock’s owners testified as to the club’s illegal activities at the hearing held at Biloxi’s federal building in January 1951.

Following the hearing, the club was put off limits to Keesler airmen, and after a subsequent raid it was put off limits to the whole U.S. Armed Forces.

After regaining its on-limits status in early 1952, club owners ignored warnings and after a raid in September of that year the owners were placed under a restraining order by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

But, in April 1953, a couple complained to Mississippi Gov. Hugh White that they had lost $5,500 at the Paddock Club. By Aug. 4, 1953, the Paddock had shut down. It reopened as the Five O’clock Club shortly afterwards.

Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast’s distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and phone number to Flashback, Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; call 896-2424; or email living@sunherald.com.

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