Forty years ago, in 1972, Lillian (aka: Ginger) Tailford Belt, 53 years of age, was one of the most notorious women in Northwest Ohio. As the area’s most famous madam and operator of an equally famous house of ill repute in Ottawa County, she and a small army of accomplices were facing a major federal indictment that included numerous charges, including tax evasion, white slavery and bribery. It was a case that captured the public’s attention, offering a trial filled with steamy testimony, but also revealing the seamy and sordid underbelly of the prostituion trade and how the “Round the Clock Grille” on Woodville Road was able to evade criminal prosecution for so many years. The revelations would eventually bring down the sitting Ottawa County sheriff James Ellenberger and sent former Ottawa county sheriff Myron Hetrick to prison for helping to distribute tens of thousands of dollars in bribes.
In the center of the stormy scandal was a striking blonde by the name of Lillian Tailford Belt. known by many as “Ginger”. She was accused of running the operation for decades, since the 1950’s. She was also linked to the notorious Rosie Pasco of Port Clinton who was reputed to have a run a similar operation for many years near Camp Perry during the war years when that area was home to thousands of lonely soldiers. Rose Pasco was also charged. The evidence and testimony in the 1972 trial against Lillian and her co-defendants was overwhelming. The federal agencies that orchestrated the case had done their homework. Lillian Belt was convicted and sentenced to a four-year term at a women’s federal prison facility in Arizona, the state where she had been living in the years prior to the federal raid on the “Clock”.
Because of the “Clock’s” location at the corner of Woodville Road and Fostoria Road, about 5 miles northwest of Genoa, I actually knew Lillian. Not well, but during the mid-60’s while I was a carryout boy at a popular Genoa grocery store where Lillian and her two children often shopped for groceries.Not just for their River Road home near Elmore, but also for the women who worked and stayed at the “Round the Clock”whorehouse. It was my job, at times, to deliver groceries to both locations. My education in the ways of the world began early. It was always hard for me to believe that the local law enforcement agencies didn’t know what was going on there, when as a 16-year-old, I knew, and so did everybody else.
So for me, it was not just journalistic curiosity, but also personal inquiry, that led me to recently wonder whatever happened to Lillian Pasco Tailford Belt. What happened after she left prison? Did she ever come back to Ohio? Was she even alive? That I assumed was not probable, given that 40 years had passed since the trial and she was at least 30 years my senior. I just assumed she had probably gone to her final reward many years ago. And after some Internet searches, I did confirm that she, in fact, had passed away, but just a few years ago, in 2009, in her beloved Phoenix at the age of 90. The obit was really just a short death notice. I’ve been unable to find any other information, nor was there any mention of her one-time public celebrity in Ohio. Even the Toledo Blade missed the event. Her final days merely yielded a short notice in the Phoenix paper and a schedule for the funeral service. It appears that she must have lived out the balance of her life after the Toledo court case(over 35 years) in relative obscurity in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Now as a storyteller by nature, this has bothered me. I wish I could have had the chance to have listened to and documented her life story. All of the stories and colorful memories that had no doubt grown in the garden of her most unusual life. One can only surmise that Lillian had much more to tell, much more to reveal, more more to have riveted our attention, beyond what had surfaced in the Toledo trial. What a story – still untold.
Today, as I pass by the corner of Woodville and Fostoria roads, the old “Round the Clock” truck stop and house of ill-repute is long gone, burned down and replaced, ironically by a bank. Nothing left on the corner to remind us or future generations of what took place there. How on so many nights, the parking lot at this rural outpost, would be filled with a fleet of yellow taxi cabs from Toledo who brought out men day and night for sample of what was NOT on the menu , how the red hand on the big neon clock on the otuside of the white aluminum siding would blink round and round in circles as an invitation to stop in and see for yourself what earthly “delights” were to be found up the back stairs. But 40 years have passed. The “clock” has now stopped. For good. Along with a moment in time that lives only for those who remember.