Posts Tagged ‘Abe Reles’

Vintage matchbook ads for Brooklyn businesses

July 9, 2012

The one downside to the fact that so few people smoke these days? So few businesses hand out free matches as advertising vehicles.

But for most of the 20th century, matchbook ads were a popular way to get a company name and service out there—as these now-defunct Brooklyn businesses did in the 1940s.

Loeser’s was a legendary department store on Fulton Street, Brooklyn’s main shopping strip since the late 19th century. It closed in 1952.

I love this public service ad from Brooklyn Edison—now part of Con Edison, of course—for electric stoves. Cooking “electrically” probably did cut down on kitchen fires.

The Hotel Half Moon was built in 1927 to rival the fancy new hotels going up in Atlantic City. Instead, it hosted conventions, became a maternity hospital in the 1940s, and was torn down in the 1990s to make way for a senior citizen housing.

In 1941, the Half Moon earned a place in mob history: Murder, Inc. turncoat Abe “Kid Twist” Reles plunged to his death from his sixth floor room there under mysterious circumstances.

Mayflower 9-3800! But why was Coney Island’s phone exchange called Mayflower?

Coney Island’s infamous Half Moon Hotel

December 17, 2008

Astroland at Coney Island is sadly being dismantled ride by ride this month. It’s kind of going the way of the Half Moon Hotel—once a majestic, Spanish Colonial–style resort right on the boardwalk.

Opened in 1927, the Half Moon was supposed to compete with then-luxe Atlantic City and attract upscale crowds to Coney rather than just hordes of working-class day-trippers.












Well, that didn’t exactly happen. In the 1930s, the hotel teetered on the brink of foreclosure; it eeked out a profit by hosting banquets and conventions. 

And then Abe “Kid Twist” Reles moved in. Reles was a gangster with Murder, Inc. who turned informant after he was charged with homicide in 1940. While he testified at different trials, he lived under police protection at the Half Moon, guarded by six cops and watched at all times.

aberelesmugshot Abe Reles, prior to taking up residence at the Half Moon. Looks like he knew what was in store for him.






In the early hours of November 12, 1941, Reles was found dead, flat on his back on the roof of the hotel kitchen far below his sixth-floor window. Bed sheets tied together like a makeshift rope made it seem like he fell to his death while trying to escape.

Or was he pushed? In the 1960s, mob boss Lucky Luciano said that police were paid $50,000 to toss Reles out the window. No one knows for sure, and the Half Moon—knocked down in the 1990s to make way for a senior citizens’ home—took its secrets to the grave.