A New Deal

Another world leader took over in early 1933, too. Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany. In out­classes at Buckman Grammar School, we paid little attention to the event. The terror of Hitler and his Nazis came home to us a little later on.

Out on the streets, however, we were paying attention to news about another German: Max Schmeling, the arrogant heavyweight boxing champion of the world. There were cheers around the neighborhood that summer when Jack Sharkey defeated Schmeling in 15 rounds, bringing the world’s heavyweight title back to the US.


The Chinese gambling joint on Couch Street quietly reopened. I don’t know how they got away with it. But they did. And one crowded night, my mother and Agnes were there in the middle of the action, when something extraordinary happened that my mother would talk aboutfor the rest of her life.

She made eleven straight passes on the craps table! That means she threw an opening seven or eleven or made her point, eleven successive times. She held the dice for almost 45 minutes. Everybody in the place started crowding around, watching her play out her hand. It was an incredible run.

Agnes said that as the atmosphere grew more and more tense, the crowd loudly cheered her on with every roll of the dice. It was probably the noisiest shift since the police broke the doors down.

Fortunes have been made with the kind of lucky roll my mother had going that night. It’s the kind of run that every craps player dreams about. With smart, heavy betting, a string of eleven straight passes can wipe out a small gambling house. Literally break the bank.

A few high rollers around the table that night did make a pile of money on my mother’s hot hand. Yet all my mother won was $300, because of her small bets and conservative betting style. She didn’t let any of her winnings ride. She picked up the money after every pass. And she seldom took the available odds on her front line bets. She admitted this to me when she described the night again, years later.

She said that after the third or fourth pass, she became scared. She was shaking. She expected again and again to lose on the next roll. And she didn’t have the nerve to beef up her bets—to push her luck.

However, she told of one small, lean, neatly-dressed man who did have the nerve to increase the size of his bets—on her luck, He walked away from the table with winnings of more than $4,000. That would amount to ten times that much in today’s money. Maybe more.

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