Drift Inn/Cabin Club

This photo ran with the caption, “Driff Inn, cabins and parking lot all deserted today.” | File Photo/Akron Beacon Journal, July 5, 1957 © Akron Beacon Journal – USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cabin Club / Drift Inn Club (sometimes spelled “Drif In” or “Driff Inn”) was a Black club and recreation hub located at 5360 Akron Peninsula Road in Peninsula. It operated from the 1930s to 1957. The location featured six “ultra modern cabins” with running water, a recreation hall, and a baseball diamond, amateur baseball games and family-friendly entertainment. Musical performances were also regularly performed. The club included a ball diamond, barbecue, and full shelter. Admission and parking were free.

The club changed ownership frequently throughout its operation. According to the Peninsula Historical Society, the piece of land was purchased by an African American couple, John and Helen Lee, in the early 1930s. In 1955 the club was put up for sale after the property was seized from owners Sam Barner and Mitchell Wadley for delinquent federal taxes along with their Ritz Plaza Hotel in Akron. When the property was sold in 1955, the name changed from the Cabin Club to the Drift Inn. In July of 1957, the club was permanently shut down under the ownership of Johnnie W. Guess.

Like nearby Lake Glenn, the Cabin Club came under surveillance by local law enforcement frequently for health code violations. Similarly, the Cleveland Call & Post reported racial discrimination because of the club’s African American clientele. Nearly every mention of the club in the Akron Beacon Journal reports illicit gambling, illegal liquor sales, racketeering, unsanitary conditions and tax delinquency. Headlines include “Gamblers,” “Illegal Liquor Sale Charged,” “Cabin Club Raided, One Man Booked,” “Court To Hear Two Arrested in Club Raids,” and “75 Customers Flee in Raid on Cabin Club.”

The final year of the club’s existence is presented in two staunchly different newspaper narratives. On one hand, the Call & Post advertised family friendly entertainment until July 1957. Comparatively, the Akron Beacon Journal reported on vice until what seemed to be the final shutdown of the club after a fatal stabbing on July 4, 1957. Such differences in narratives are common in newspapers with different demographics. The uncertainty of the truth regarding the club’s final days is important to remember.

 In the July 13, 1957, Call & Post the author Al Sweeny portrayed the stabbing at the Cabin Club as a spectacle to distract from the burning of the Stonibrook resort which happened three days prior to the July 4th stabbing. Chief Sheriff Deputy Gobel Waddell commented, “We have wanted to close the place up for months… Underhill said as far as he was concerned from here on out, ‘there will be no leniency shown. We plan to close places like the Driff Inn as fast as possible and keep them closed.”

The 1957 law enforcement crackdowns on the Cabin Club occurred simultaneously with increased law enforcement at the nearby Lake Glenn. In both of these cases, those interviewed by the Call & Post reported racial discrimination. The Cuyahoga Valley in the 1950s illustrates how Black recreational sites in traditionally White spaces were grievously policed. According to Historian John Lowney, Black clubs of the early 20th century were central spaces for discussion of progressive Black ideology and expressions of sexuality and race. It may be considered that a fear of these ideologies and structural racism was a motive in the persecution of these clubs.

Resources

  • “Cabin Club for Sale.” Call & Post. August 31, 1955.
  • “Cabin Club Raided, One Man Booked.” Akron Beacon Journal. August 4, 1941.
  • “Courts to Hear Two Arrested in Club Raids.” Akron Beacon Journal. August 5, 1951.
  • “Driff Inn Headache to Law.” Akron Beacon Journal. July 5, 1957
  • “Gamblers.” Akron Beacon Journal. December 10, 1951.
  • Loewen, James W. Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. New York: The New Press, 2006.
  • Lowney, John. Jazz Internationalism: Literary Afro-Modernism and the Cultural Politics of Black Music. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2017.
  • “Illegal Liquor Sale Charged.” Akron Beacon Journal. May 21, 1951.
  • “Rhythm Bar Plays Two.” Akron Beacon Journal. August 5, 1948.
  • “Stark Leads District in Rackateer Register.” Akron Beacon Journal. January 6, 1962.
  • “Stretchin N’ Bouncin.” Call & Post. August 16, 1947.
  • “U.S. Seizes Ritz Plaza Hotel For Non-Payment of Taxes.” Akron Beacon Journal. August 20,    1955.
  • “You’re Invited at the Drift Inn Peninsula Ohio.” Call & Post. June 29, 1957.
  • “75 Customers Flee in Raid on Cabin Club.” Akron Beacon Journal. July 8, 1951.

5360 Akron Peninsula Rd., Peninsula, OH

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