The Troy Street Observer

April 11, 1960: State Cops Raid the Glass Hat!

It was an old-fashioned raid, just like the police did them during Prohibition. State police shut down the popular after-hours club, the Glass Hat, on April 11, 1960. “State Police Swoop On Nightspot Hi-Jinx,” was the page 1 headline in the Daily Record.

Photo of Jo Thompson
Jo Thompson in 1953

The Back Bay was home to one of Boston’s best-known after-hours clubs, upstairs at 336 Newbury Street. It was called the Club Vanity Fair in the late thirties and early forties when saxophonist Frank D’Avolio led the after-hours band, and the Glass Hat after that.

The Glass Hat opened in 1946 with occasional entertainers of jazz interest, such as Clarence Jackson. Good singers were the rule in the mid-1950s, like Jo Thompson from Detroit, and Dorchester’s Margie Anderson. Then in 1955, all advertising and mentions on the entertainment pages of the newspapers ceased. And it got busy after hours.

There wasn’t any hiding this operation. The building housing Division 16 of the Boston Police Department backed up against the Glass Hat, and the club was so successful it hired a police detail on weekends to keep traffic running smoothly. The pop singers working downstairs went home at midnight, and the jazz trio kept playing upstairs. Saxophonist Rod Bridges, who had a trio with pianist Charlie Bechler and drummer Don McBride, was popular there.

It all ended in the early-morning hours of April 11 when the state police raided the club,  the first such raid in Boston in 20 years. There were about 150 patrons in the club at the time, two hours after legal closing, and the cops arrested everybody except the doorman. He had been out front with the key, and when he saw the raiders coming, he threw it in the street and took off. The police found the key in the gutter and let themselves in.

The Boston police were not told about the raid beforehand, and Boston Police Commissioner Leo Sullivan was of course shocked, shocked. He denied that officers in uniform were present in the club, or that an officer was directing traffic out front. Heads rolled in the BPD, and by the end of April, state and federal cops had raided joints in 50 cities and towns around the Commonwealth.

The Glass Hat was history a few weeks after the raid, its license revoked permanently. It was replaced by Trader Ed’s, with a South Seas theme and a band called the Waikiki Trio. Trader Ed wasn’t busy enough to merit an after-hours police detail to direct traffic.

 

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