By Tom Schobert
Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer … or so the song went back in the days of my carefree youth.
Summer vacation for a kid in the ‘60s was such a glorious time. Endless relaxation and fun … and plenty of time to think up schemes.
Board games were popular pastimes and a trip to Zeman’s Toys in Southgate Plaza never failed to produce something new to while away the time. The fateful day was when I was attracted to a toy roulette set, complete with plastic wheel, brass BBs to spin around and a felt wagering board. That opened our youthful eyes to the wonders of gambling.
The roulette set inspired someone to dig out an old Yahtzee game to play a kiddie version of craps and there was always one delinquent who knew card games like poker and blackjack. Soon, my friends and I were merrily betting baseball cards, marbles and other juvenile currency while the seeds of opportunity began to sprout.
I’m not sure who it was who came up with the idea, but once it was out in the open, it covered us like a rash and there was no turning back. Why not operate a neighborhood casino?
Oddly, our kindhearted moms saw no harm in letting their children pursue such a course. We sold it as an excuse for a good old-fashioned summertime get together. Everyone on the street would be invited and we kids would set up our little games for all to enjoy … all in fun, of course. In fact, the moms aided and abetted this enterprise by preparing snacks.
The kid whose garage was always the cleanest volunteered to be the host. A Saturday evening date was set and handwritten notices were distributed door to door.
A trip to Ulbrich’s for necessary supplies included green eyeshade visors, fresh packs of cards and poker chips. Chairs and tables were collected from various homes and the casino was ready for business. Blackjack and poker tables, craps table, roulette table, snack bar with baked goods, pretzels and pop. It was a sight to see.
To say the turnout exceeded our expectations would be an understatement. Everyone on the street came and all were in the mood to gamble!
Another poker table had to be set up to accommodate the crowd (with an eager dad recruited to represent “the House”). It soon became a rollicking good time and it seemed the word had gone out to bring singles and loose change. The poker chips were put aside once things got into high gear.
The snacks and drinks were a big hit and the host kid’s little sister thought maybe the men folk would like some beer. She loaded up a tray with bottles from her dad’s garage fridge and went table to table selling beer for a dime a bottle. I would point out that the beer vendor was a 9-year-old. By the time her dad caught wind of this, she had already gone through most of a case of Genny.
The fun really started when a town police cruiser turned into the driveway. It seems one of the dads was buddies with the kindly police chief and conspired to have him stop in to “raid” the joint. He was a good sport about everything, but I think the look on his face when he saw all the cash on the tables (not to mention the kid selling beer) told us the time was nigh to wrap things up.
The statutes of limitations for such crimes have long since run out, right?