“Dago Rose”

“Dago Rose” was one of the most notorious madams of the 1930s and 40s. She plied her trade in and around Port Clinton, Ohio, not far from Camp Perry. Her familiarity with the men on the Ohio National Guard base is probably why her name and reputation is blazed in infamy. As the service men who trained at Camp Perry moved on to fight in foreign lands, they shared fond memories of Rose and her girls.

While the lonely soldiers at Camp Perry and the citizens of Port Clinton held a soft spot in their hearts for the short Italian woman, Ottawa County authorities and the Ohio National Guard did their best to put her out of business.

Rose went by several last names: Rose Sherry, aka Rose Shallo, aka Rose Phipps, aka Rose Silverwood. Born February 18, 1900, in Plainfield, New Jersey, to Michael and Maria Sciallo, she married James Pasco and had three children.

Her troubles with the law began on a Saturday night in the summer of 1930 when she threw a raucous party at her Ascher Beach cottage. Ottawa County Deputy Dewey Cullenen, who later became sheriff, led a raid on the wild gathering. He told the Ottawa County News that when he and his raiding party got to the house, they found the door had been bolted, leading him to believe the inhabitants had been tipped off. He banged on the door, but the only answer he got from inside was the sound of another bolt sliding across the door. The screen door was latched, so he ripped it from its hinges, then he and other deputies broke down the heavy hardwood door.

As the deputies burst into the living room of the cottage, at least twenty-five Port Clinton men scrambled to escape the house or otherwise hide themselves from police. The ones who were rounded up were questioned and gave varying stories for their presence. Some of them claimed to be repairmen there to fix the plumbing, electrical, phone, etc. A couple of men said they were passing by the cottage. Thinking there was a fire, they claimed to have stopped to help out. One fellow told Cullenen, he stopped to pick up his coat and hat, which he’d left there a few days before.

It was Prohibition, and authorities were probably looking for liquor. None was found, but the smell of alcohol permeated the air. Cullenen figured a bottle of liquor had been broken into a pail just as he and his raiding party burst through the door.

The men were free and clear to go, but Rose and Helen Ryan of Toledo were taken into custody. They were held in jail until Monday morning when the justice of the peace sentenced both women to ninety days in jail but suspended their sentences. Rose was fined $300. The women each had to pay court costs of $8.66. Rose was given ten days to clear out of Ottawa County, but Helen was given only 48 hours. They both promised to stay out of the county under threat of having to serve their jail sentences if they came back. Rose broke her promise and reopened with no police interference.

“DagoRose’s” establishment became so popular with the men on the army base that at one point guards were placed at the roadside entrance to the house in an effort to stop soldiers from entering. When that failed, Camp Perry officials asked the Ottawa County sheriff for his assistance in closing the cat house down.

Deeming the house a public nuisance, authorities ordered Rose Pasco to close her house of ill repute. She ignored the order and kept operating. On Friday night, July 27, 1934, Sheriff D. L. Cullenen and National Guard officials decided they were going to “swoop down and clean her out.” During the raid, authorities arrested three “working” girls and found Rose hiding in the bushes a distance away from the house.

“Dago Rose” and the girls were told to leave the house and not return. The men in the establishment were booted out and the sheriff then locked the doors. No arrests were made in that incident, and Rose opened her doors a few weeks later.

In 1942, Rose’s house of prostitution was raided again, this time by Sheriff Ralph H. Riedmaier and Deputy Harry Swartzlander. That strike netted six arrests: Rose, Faye Clarke, Anne Brown, Raye Rogers, Francis Rogers and Georgia Brown. Rose and Faye were given ninety-day suspended sentences—if they would quit the business—and fined $100 each. The other four women each served ten days of ninety-day sentences and were let go after passing health examinations.

Authorities were not having a lot of luck in closing down “Dago Rose” and her house of ill repute, so in 1946, they decided to take a different tact. They got the federal authorities involved after a sailor from Great Lakes, Illinois, contracted a communicable disease. The county health commissioner, Dr. George A. Poe, paired up with Walter A. Hixenbaugh of the Federal Security Agency, who was on loan to the Ohio Department of Health. They planned to arrest Rose’s girls and hold them in jail for a ten-day period until they passed health tests. The women were told if they went back to the house, they would be arrested again and quarantined until they passed another medical exam. Authorities said they would continue to do this until the women left the county. It didn’t do much good.

Rose stayed out of the papers until 1970 when her ex-daughter-in-law, Lillian “Ginger” Pasco Tailford Belt, who ran her own whorehouse called the Round the Clock Grille, was arrested on federal charges during a bribery case that involved sitting Ottawa County Sheriff James Ellenberger, former County Sheriff Myron Hetrick, and a pinball machine operator. It seems as though the three gentlemen were taking bribes to keep the cat house doors open.

The case also alleged that Rose had bribed Sheriff Riedmaier by giving him a refrigerator and television set. In addition, she was accused of perjury in claiming the Port Clinton police chief had not told her to close down her house of prostitution. Both counts against her were eventually dropped as no one would testify against her.

Rose Pasco died in 1979 after a lengthy illness. Curiously enough, her funeral mass was held in a church named the Immaculate Conception. She was buried in Riverview Cemetery in Port Clinton.