In the early 1900s, a large two-story hotel stood on the corner of River and Webster Streets in Montgomery. Around 1910 it was run by a flamboyant baseball manager named Al Tebeau.
Tebeau’s greatest claim to fame was his genius pick for the 1911 Aurora Blues baseball team. He is still remembered today as the man responsible for bringing the late Casey Stengel to Aurora. Few people know that he was also the proprietor of the notorious saloon, gambling establishment and brothel in Montgomery.
Al Tebeau came from a long line of Tebeaus who were born in St. Louis. Several had illustrious careers as players before going on to own and/or manage other teams. There was cousin George Tebeau, a well-known and highly regarded player and later owner manager of the Kansas City American Association franchise. He once played for the New York Nationals and the Washington Americans. He died a millionaire in 1923.
Another cousins, Patrick (Patsy) Tebeau was manager of the Cleveland team. He had another enterprise, as well. He owned four gold mining claims in Colorado. In 1896, he and his partner, who was also his third baseman, were working the first claim and he promised if they struck it rich he would buy a National League Franchise for his brother George. This came from a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Nov. 22, 1896.
Yet another Tebeau cousin, Harry, played for the Terre Haute, Indiana team. He played under the name of Nuff, and apparently never achieved the fame of his cousins.
Ironically, both George’s brother-in-law, “Billy Dutch” Leisinger, a ball player and umpire, and his brother Patsy took their own lives. At the time of his death Patsy was a saloonkeeper in St. Louis.
As for Al, after the first year of managing the team, they were in last place – in spite of Casey Stengel – and he quit. It was the end of Tebeau’s connection with the team, and he went on to concentrate on his business enterprises. The team went on to win 20 of their next 28 games. Soon the rest of the world would be hearing from Casey Stengel. The Aurora Team folded in 1915.
In Montgomery, the legend of the famous New York Manager Casey Stengel who once played at the old Riverview Park has been passed down for generations. The stories have been told and retold and usually embellished. But one thing that the old timers in Montgomery failed to mention was the connection he had with one of the most colorful saloon keepers in town.
That one thing was the fact that before settling in Montgomery, Al Tebeau was a bartender as well as the manager of the Joliet franchise. He was a young man with a wife and child when he was brought in to manage the Aurora Blues. He moved to Montgomery and became the proprietor of the hotel that was known at various times as the Riverview Hotel, The South Shore Inn, and the Riviera.
In 1920, he applied for a passport to travel to Cuba. It would be the first of many trips made by him and his wife, Kitty. During the time he was spending his winters in Cuba, Al Capone was renting out the entire sixth floor of the Seville Hotel in Havana. Cuba was the playground of the rich and famous in those years and well-known American writers such as Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway made it their winter quarters.
On his passport application, Tebeau listed his occupation as hotelkeeper. That same year the city directory listed it as ice cream merchant. The following year when he and his wife traveled to Cuba, he listed his occupation as ‘restaurant and soft drinks,’ on River Street.
It is no secret that the Montgomery area was a hot bed of speakeasies that were a source of shame to many locals. In small towns up and down the Valley, the riverbanks were dotted with small taverns where bootleg liquor was sold. The newspapers of the day carried stories of the bootleg operations in Northern Illinois controlled by Al Capone and his gang. A combination of corrupt public officials and the public’s fear allowed them to flourish. After prohibition ended in 1934, the Riviera began to change hands.
Al Tebeau left Montgomery sometime before 1937, and the Riviera Café was sold to new partners. In 1943, Gregory J. Hanlon purchased it. He later ran the bar at Sherman Avenue and Route 25, where Elmer’s is now located. The reputation of the hotel did not improve much with the new owners. The streets were still filled with parked cars as patrons left the Aurora bars at closing time and headed to Montgomery to party until dawn.
After a fire in the 1960s took off the top story of the hotel, the lower level was saved. It became Marlene’s bakery, and is today the home of George’s restaurant where the locals gather for morning coffee and catch up on the neighborhood gossip.
Until now few have ever heard the story of it’s former owner Al Tebeau who brought both shame and then fame to our town when he brought Casey Stengel in to play baseball at Fox River Park.