Fat Matt Hayes

063-32022194826836 The proprietor of the International hotel from 1929-1943 was Matt Hayes. He inherited the business from his father, also called Matt Hayes. He moved from the hotel into a lavish apartment above the Bank of Hamilton where he lived with his brother Eddie. He lived an increasingly lavish lifestyle enjoying good food and large parties. In response to this his size began rapidly to increase. He could afford this lifestyle as, in addition to running the hotel, he was a bookmaker. And not a small time bookmaker either. He handled the larger bets that smaller bookies in Hamilton couldn’t. He accepted heavy bets through the telegraph, known as the “”hot wire stuff” from the States with bets running into the thousands of dollars on a “hot nag”. He used some of his money to help out neighbours when they needed food or other kinds of assistance. Matt, however, was becoming increasingly hampered by his excesses and his weight had increased to almost 400 pounds. His brother Eddie had to help him dress and tie his shoes. His doctor, Thomas Balfe, warned him that he only had about 2 years to live if he did not lose weight. Gambling right to the end he refused to give up his lifestyle and almost to the day, two years later, on September 26, 1943 just a month before his 49th birthday, he died.

By Gayne C. Young

Matt Hayes was one of North America’s biggest bookmakers, both figuratively and literally. 

He lived his life to its fullest and it essentially crushed him before he turned 49 years old.

Matt inherited the International Hotel in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada from his father in 1929. Matt ran the hotel and branched out to bookmaking soon after. He specialized in handling huge bets the likes of which others in Canada couldn’t handle, taking in wagers equivalent to millions of dollars in today’s money over the telegraph. These “hot wire” bets brought Matt the kind of fortune that allowed him to indulge his every vice.

And he had a few.

He moved himself and his brother Eddie into a posh apartment above the Bank of Hamilton, threw extravagant parties, helped local families in need by giving them food, money, and coal, and ate and smoked himself silly. Matt loved food and cigars and partook of them almost constantly. He ate so much that his weight ballooned to over 400 pounds (some believe he topped 450). Matt got so fat that he had to have his brother Eddie help him dress and tie his shoes. Despite this, Matt continued eating, smoking, gambling, and partying as much as he pleased. His doctor, Thomas Balfe, told Matt that if he didn’t change his lifestyle, he’d die within two years.

And that’s almost exactly what happened.

Matt died on September 26, 1943, one month shy of his 49th birthday and a few days shy of the two years his doctor gave him to change his ways. That doctor probably felt pretty bad for  being off by multiple days on his prognosis. In fact, we bet Matt was going to turn his life around the day before the official two-year mark but never got the chance on account of the doctor’s error.