Monday, May 5, 2014

Gambling Genealogy

My Grandmother Goldie Weinstock (front)
This is my paternal Grandmother, Goldie Weinstock. Whatever gambling genes I have come from her. This photo says Goldie to me so much that I had to share it with you. I loved my Grandmother, but I really loved the stories about her and horse racing.

I am not sure when the above photo was taken, but when I encountered it among the pictures while cleaning out my Mom's house recently it brought back a flood of memories.

My Grandmother loved to go to the track, but she liked to bet horses regardless of whether she went to the track so she frequented bookies on a regular basis. There are two bookie-related stories about her. The first is that sometime in the early 1930s she was arrested in a bookie raid in the Chicago suburbs conducted by Cook County State's Attorney John Swanson. Her picture, along with lots of others, was on the front page of the Chicago Daily Times. I have tried for years to find that newspaper without luck.

My Dad, David Weinstock was inducted into the Army in February of 1943. While he was in Florida in training to be a radar officer, he and my Mom, Jean Weinstock were married on June 18, 1943, and they initially lived in an apartment in Palm Beach. Shortly afterwards Nanny Goldie, who was not at the wedding, came down for a visit. She walked into the apartment, dropped her bags, said "where's the bookie" and dashed out the door barely saying hello to the happy couple.

I've heard that Goldie had a betting system -- she'd bet on a gray horse if one was in the race -- among others. She always had action on more than one horse in a race. If another horse won she'd say "I thought about that horse". I have no idea how successful she was as a bettor, but she loved it.

My own first encounter with live thoroughbred horse racing was in the mid-1950s when a friend's parents took us to Washington Park as part of a birthday celebration (for perhaps 10 year olds) that included a day at the races and an evening at Chicago's fabulous Riverview (amusement park.) My friend and i had no idea about picking horses, but we spotted a booth labeled "Information". We asked the guy in the booth who was going to win the next race and he told us. My friends parents bet the horse for us and it won! Needless to say we went back to the booth for the next race only to hear "get out of here kids before you cost me my job."

After that, several times throughout my childhood my Grandfather Max and Nanny Goldie would take me, my sister, and my cousins Jimmy and Johnny to Arlington Park. We'd stay for 6 or 7 races and were each given $20 to bet. (Or more correctly, to have an adult bet on our behalf.) One year I remember buying Goldie a racing slide rule computer at Von Lengerke & Antoinne/Abercrombie and Fitch in downtown Chicago. She had no interest in such a thing so one of my cousins and I appropriated it and proceeded to win something like 5 out of the 6 races we stayed for. By the 4th race we had adults in boxes all around us asking for advice. (A few years later I took the slide rule as a basis and wrote a computer program to process inputted Racing Form data to pick horses for me. It worked great for a number of test runs...and failed completely at its first and only live test.)

Alas, my Nanny Goldie died in November 1963, the week before JFK was assassinated, way too early for me to know her as an adult...something I've always regretted.

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