Before I begin, I must say that I have
never been to a track but perhaps one of these days I'll get there.
The extent of my gambling is buying my weekly New York Mega and
Lotto $1 tickets twice a week.
Now, having said that, I remember very well when I was growing
up here in Newark in the 1940's and 50's all of the horse racing
lovers and some of the "bookie joints."
My mother and father both "played the ponies." Every
night at five o'clock, during dinner time, my parents would have
the radio on the kitchen table turned on and they would be listening
to the racing results for the day. My father never cursed in front
of my mother or me but when one of his horses would loose he would
hit the table and say: "SON OF A PUP."
Every morning I would have to run down to the candy store and get
them the "Daily Racing Form" (or whatever it was called)
and another racing paper - Racing Telegram?. They would sit there
and try to figure out which horse would win and then go out and
"place their bets." There was a real "science"
to how they figured it out - condition of the track, weather, jockey's
There was a barber shop right across the street from us on South
Orange Ave between 11th and 12th Streets. When I was a kid I had
long, curly, blond hair. Still have a photo of me with that. When
I was about three years old, my mother told me, she took me across
the street to get my "first hair cut." The barber said
to her: "I haven't cut hair in over 20 years." The barber
shop had three barber chairs in the front of the place and behind
them was a frosted "glass" wall. Behind that wall were
all of the bookies and phones.
On the corner of South Orange Ave and South 10th Street was a bar
called "DANNY'S WONDER BAR" and on the walls of this place
were beautiful photo's and mural's of many of the greatest racing
horses of the day. I used to love to go in there with my parents
and just look at these majestic animals.
Back in the 40's and 50's most of the people in my neighborhood
did not have TV's. Every Saturday afternoon my father and uncles
would hang out in many of the local bars in my area and watch the
races. I loved being there in the bars with these men and listening
to not only the race but the shouting and screaming of the men as
the race was under way and their horses either won or lost.
Back in the 1940's and 50's my mother and her two sisters, my Aunts
Margaret and Anna, all TIGHE sisters, worked for Prudential going
all the way back to the 1920's. Every year in the summer the Pru
would close for a day and they would run a train out of Newark's
Penn Station down to Asbury Park called the "PRUDENTIAL EXCURSION"
and my mother, aunts, and I would go to do Asbury Park for the day.
This was one of the highlights of my childhood year after year.
There were many times over the years when my mother would leave
me with my Aunts there in Asbury Park and she and some of her lady
friends would take a train over to Monmouth Park for the day and
then meet us back in Asbury Park in time for dinner. I can also
remember, very clearly, that at one point my mother didn't go to
Monmouth but had given one of her lady friend's some money to bet
on a horse for her. The horse won but but when the woman came back
to Asbury Park that night she told my mother that she had forgotten
to place the bet for my mother. Needless to say, my mother went
nuts and called this woman some "unkind" words - which
even surprised me at that time.
How many of you remember the names of some of the great racing
horses and the jockey's who rode them such as: Citation, Bold Ruler,
Northern Dancer, Seattle Slew, Seabiscuit, Man O' War, and the Grand
Daddy of them all "SECRETARIAT'" etc.? And how many of
you remember the "bookies" and "bookie joints"
in your neighborhood? - no names please - just the facts, Mamm.
I still love to watch the major races - Kentucky Derby, Preakness
Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes - every year. Who knows, perhaps
one of these days I might make it down to Monmouth Park, Churchill
Downs, or some of the other tracks.