Sunday, May 21, 2006

The sure thing?

Grandfather's asthma flared from time to time becoming unbearable. The only relief available known in the days before steroid inhalers and air conditioning was a trip to the Arizona desert away from molds pollens and many other irritants.

I am not exactly sure of the time on this. Judging from the story my father told me, it must have been in the 1920's.

On a train journey to Arizona Grandfather B wandered into the club car. There were people conversing, reading newspapers and just enjoying the passing scenery. To his delight he saw a group of people around a table playing pinochle. Grandfather was an avid lifelong player. As he approached the table one of the players turned to him and said," Buddy, will you take my chair? I have some reports to finish."

As Grandfather slid into his chair, the departing player leaned back over the table saying, "Don't forget boys that I'm in on the "deal"."

Time passed easily. They were good players and continually bantered among themselves. From time to time the phrase, "The Deal", came up followed by a guilty hush.

The next morning as the train approached Phoenix Grandfather noticed one of the players breakfasting in the dining car. The man smiled and beckoned him to join his table. They spoke for a while and finally Grandfather asked if the man could share something about "the Deal".

The man hesitated and then opened up. Getting a pledge of secrecy he spilled out the story. A jockey in need of money had approached one of them with the news that an upcoming horserace was to be fixed. He was the designated winner but had no money to bet. A pool was to be created to place bets for the jockey and for the participants. The odds would be long and the rewards great. He named one of the leading hotels in Phoenix and invited a visit that afternoon if there was interest. Grandfater B visited the suite where he committed $10,000.00 to the pool.

He imediately returned to Walla Walla to raise the money. He cleaned out his bank account and pressed some of his business accounts for advances. Grandmother was beside herself and my father implored him to investigate further. Grandfather was obsessed. This was a sure thing!

Having wired the money to his new friend in care of the hotel, he again boarded the train for Phoenix. By now the race will have been run and the money collected.

At the front desk of the hotel Grandfather asked for his friend. The clerk replied that there was no John Smith registered. But I was in his room! The clerk replied that they often rented rooms for an afternoon for busines meetings and yes, Mr. Smith had picked up a telegram. This was an accomodation the hotel provided for travelers even though they were not registered guests.

Eventually, there was the realization he had been swindled.

Back in Walla Walla to face the problem of how to support a family and conduct a business now owing money rather than having a bank account. He turned to his mentor, George Kellogh, to draft a letter to his creditors.

George operated an insurance business. He was a shrewd man who has served as world president of IOOF, a benevolent fraternity, in the days when that organization was at its zenith.
He had taken the young immigrant under his wing and developed a client even through my generation.

His counsel was not to write a letter. This would bring the creditors in like vultures. Just go back to work as if nothing happened. He would help out with an imediate loan. As money comes in start paying back little by little and your creditors will not close in on you.

George Kellough lived to be an active 97. Grandfather regained his business and self confidence. In later years he confined his pinochle partners to people he knew and if anyone asked him how business was he always responded that it was great.


Blogger Mike Barer said...

Holy cow, If I was playing cards and people were talking about a "deal", I would be very suspicious. This one sounded fishy from the word go, espessially since he was such a worldly man.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Danny Barer said...

This sounds like a fairly complicated con game, since it involved multiple players. I guess the promise of money blinded him to such practical considerations as how he would enforce his right to a share of the "pool" -- even if it had existed -- since the whole enterprise was illegal.

12:32 PM  
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