Memory Lane

MEMORY LANE

CONNETQUOT, NEW YORK

LaSalle Hotel in Oakdale

The history of Oakdale is not all squeaky clean, as the feel of modern life there might suggest. Like many towns, Oakdale has had some colorful characters living or doing business in it. Speaking with some longtime local residents, we learned about The La Salle Hotel, which was located on the corner of Montauk Highway and Dale Drive. It was said to have been a three-story hotel with its main business being the bar and prostitution. It was operated by Neldija Anyon who would later be dubbed by locals as the “Oakdale Madam.”

When exactly Mrs. Anyon took over the operation of the hotel is unclear. However, it occurred sometime between 1954, when the previous proprietor, Hector Carta was found dead in the Hotel, and 1956 when “Mimi” (Neldija’s nickname) is mentioned in an advertisement in The Suffolk County News August 31, 1956 edition. 1 She operated the business for probably about three years, but how she acquired it, or if she had any previous connection with any Oakdale residents is not stated in any newspaper accounts.

On November 26, 1958, the front page edition of The Suffolk County News ran the sensational headline “Barmaid Tells of $100 ‘Dates” In SLA Probe of Local Hotel.” Neldija Anyon, the proprietor, was charged by the Liquor Authority with nine violations, the most serious of which was procuring women for prostitution. The La Salle Hotel was described in the newspaper as being a “clip joint” (a place of public entertainment that makes a practice of defrauding patrons, as by overcharging). 2 One related scam involved female bar workers coaxing men into purchasing bottles of champagne at $25 each. The women would later receive a $5 commission for each sale. 3 Some who were scammed had altercations with the staff that required police intervention. 4 The hotel was reported as having a reputation as a hangout for hoodlums from New York City and Nassau County and “a source of annoyance to the authorities.” 5

The women working at the La Salle Hotel were described to us as being a motley crew; comprised of mental outpatients, a woman in her sixties, and one nicknamed “Fat Joanie.” Mrs. Anyon, a 5’ 6” blonde with blue eyes, was described in one newspaper article as being chicly dressed. 1 A former employee told us that “Mimi” (Neldija Anyon’s nickname) was beautiful, but she herself was not a prostitute. She was, however, a shrewd woman who in her pursuit of making money had some shady business practices which included selling liquor to minors and maintaining gambling devices.6 She did run into trouble with the New York Liquor Authority on these matters, but was able to keep her liquor license. She apparently did not feel as confident with regard to the charges brought against her in November 1958, and pleaded no contest to lesser charges that included providing a false statement in an application; failure to notify the authorities of a charge of facts; sale of liquor during prohibited hours; disorderly premises; and sale of liquor to an intoxicated person. She had not disclosed in her application for a liquor license for the La Salle hotel that she had been arrested for lewdness in 1948 in Massachusetts. 7

Mrs. Anyon’s life before and after the La Salle Hotel experience seemed to be just as tumultuous. She was born Neldija Dundurs in Riga, Latvia, on January 6, 1922. 8 A Springfield, Massachusetts newspaper reported that she had been “a victim of many months in German concentration camps” before meeting her husband, James E. Anyon, a Lieutenant in the United States Army. 9 Although the newspaper reported that she had been in a concentration camp, she may have been in a displaced persons camp in Germany, like many Latvians who fled their homeland when Russian troops took control of Latvia. Whatever her precise situation had been, she married her American Army lieutenant husband in Coburg, Germany, on October 31, 1946. Almost a year later (October 13, 1947), she arrived alone in the United States and settled in her husband’s hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts. 10 Shortly thereafter, trouble began for the Latvian war bride. In February 1948, the Springfield Union reported that James E. Anyon was being held under bail of $3000 on charges of attempted extortion, while his wife, Neldija was being held under a $300 bail for lewdness. They had been accused of extorting money from a wealthy married Northampton executive in what the newspapers called a “badger game.”11 Neldija, during her La Salle Hotel testimony, explained she had been arrested and charged with lewdness by the Springfield Police after she was allegedly found in bed with another man. 12 The extortion charges were later dropped after the court determined there was no sufficient evidence. However, James Anyon pleaded guilty to assault and battery on his wife, and was given a suspended sentence of six months. The Northhampton executive, who had accused the couple of extortion, was found guilty of lewdness and fined $200. 13 In testimony from divorce proceedings, Neldija painted a picture of a turbulent and troubled marriage plagued with violence, claiming she had been beaten by her husband and ordered out of the house. 14 This began a cycle of divorce proceedings and reconciliations between the couple. Whether a divorce was finalized in Massachusetts is unclear, since while she was living in Oakdale, she was referred to as being the wife of an army captain. During her testimony in the La Salle Hotel prostitution case, she claimed her husband beat her, “from the day I came to America.” 15 There is no mention of her being divorced, or if her husband had any association with the La Salle Hotel. Between the time she lived in Springfield, Massachusetts and Oakdale, she claimed residency in Franklin Square. 16 It is unknown why she resided there before coming to Oakdale.

After the court proceedings and losing her liquor license, she disappeared from the local area. The La Salle Hotel changed ownership and became Luigi’s Gypsy Fiddle. In the 1960s, Neldija was living in Las Vegas where she remarried James Anyon in July 1963. 17 This reunion didn’t last as they divorced in 1972, but the cycle continued with them marrying once more in December 1974 in Nevada. 18 Her chaotic journey came to an end on March 24, 2008, when she reportedly died in Las Vegas. 19

  1. “Hotel Owner Found Dead on Wednesday.” Suffolk County News. November 5, 1954, Pg. 6. Accessed March 4, 2016. Fultonhistory.com.
  2. “La Salle Hotel is Hit by SLA Accusations.” Suffolk County News. October 16, 1958. Accessed March 4, 2016. Fultonhistory.com. Definition of “clip joint” from www.learnersdictionary.com.
  3. “Barmaid Tells of $100 Dates in SLA Probe of Local Hotel.” Suffolk County News, November 26, 1958, pg. 7. Accessed March 3, 2016. Suffolk Historic Newspapers.
  4. Ibid.
  5. “La Salle Hotel Raid Nets Owner, is Held on Larceny Charge.” Suffolk County News, July 31, 1958, Accessed March 8, 2016. NYS Historic Newspapers.
  6. “Two Bars Accused of Selling to Minors.” Suffolk County News, February 27, 1958. Accessed March 4, 2016. Fultonhistory.com.
  7. “Barmaid Tells of $100 Dates in SLA Probe of Local Hotel.” Suffolk County News, November 26, 1958, Accessed March 3, 2016. NYS Historic Newspapers.
  8. Neldija Anyon, Petition for Naturalization. United States District Court of Eastern District, Brooklyn, N.Y. Petition for Naturalization, no. 550405, May, 8, 1956. National Archives.
  9. “Picture in Union Reunites Spaniel and Her Master.” The Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts). December 17, 1947, Pg.6. Accessed March 2, 2016. GenealogyBank.com
  10. Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Accessed March 2, 2016. Ancestry.com.
  11. Badger game is an extortion scheme in which a woman places a man in a compromising position and then victimizes him by demanding money when her male accomplice, pretending to be an outraged husband or relative, enters and threatens violence, scandal, etc. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved March 07, 2016 from Dictionary.com website
  12. “Barmaid Tells of $100 Dates in SLA Probe of Local Hotel.” Suffolk County News, November 26, 1958, pg. 7. Accessed March 3, 2016. Suffolk Historic Newspapers.
  13. “Badger Game Case Acquittal.” The Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts). April 27, 1948, Pg. 3. Accessed March 2, 2016. GenealogyBank.com.
  14. “Anyon Case.” Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), July 22, 1948, Pg. 20. Accessed March 2, 2016. GenealogyBank.com.
  15. “Barmaid.” Suffolk County News. November 26, 1958. Pg. 7. Accessed March 2, 2016. NYS Historic Newspapers.
  16. Neldija Anyon, Petition for Naturalization. United States District Court of Eastern District, Brooklyn, N.Y. Petition for Naturalization, no. 550405, May, 8, 1956. National Archives
  17. Ancestry.com. Nevada, Marriage Index, 1956-2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com
  18. Ancestry.com. Nevada Divorce Index, 1968-2005 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com and "Nevada Marriage Index, 1956-2005," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VV8B-7PT : accessed 4 March 2016), James E Anyon and Neldija Dundurs, 10 Dec 1974
  19. "United States Social Security Death Index," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JGLT-BJ4 : accessed 4 March 2016), Neldija Anyon, 24 Mar 2008; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database.

Richard Wolfe Interview