Friday, November 01, 2013

Sepia Saturday 201: Grannie was a Gambler


The splendid Robert Goelet House in Newport, Rhode Island is the prompt this week.

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St. Edward's Church - raffle site
My grandmother Lucy won her home in a St. Edward's church raffle. Unfortunately I couldn't find the only photo I have of it. I loved visiting that house where she, her husband Bertie, my three maiden aunts and my bachelor uncle all lived under the same roof. After mass on Sunday, the place was full of relatives drinking tea and dunking cookies. The air was thick with chatter and every once in a while a mickey full of whiskey would be passed around to fortify the tea and fuel the conversation. Fresh from communion, we were ready to roll up our sleeves and dig into the bad behavior again as soon as possible. 

Other than Sundays when we invaded the place, the house was quiet, except for the clickety clackety sound of Grandma's rosary going round and round. It never stopped because she prayed for everybody and everything - including the horses she'd wagered money on in races all across the U.S. and Canada. She'd set the rosary aside only to commit mortal sins against the First Commandment, to wit - reading tea leaves which was considered a kind of fortune telling. She knew it was a sin and even though extremely devout, she was able to reconcile her behavior with the church law. If the priest was coming over however, tea leaf reading time was over.

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When it was time to place her bets she did her phone work with one hand. The other one kept the rosary in action. The racing form, shop worn and tea stained, lay open across her lap covered with pencil marks, signs, circles, arrows and arithmetic equations of various kinds. I liked to look at the discarded forms and at a very early age had a rudimentary grasp of odds. She largely won and she won largely. There's an even longer story here, but not for now.
Not one of Grandma's forms - merely illustrative
Even though I got an early introduction to gambling and handicapping, knowledge wasn't enough for me to succeed in this branch of the family business. I didn't inherit Grandma's luck! At 17, after an initial lucky streak at the track, I lost almost all my summer earnings (around $300.00) and that was enough serious gambling for me.

I still love horse racing though and I defy you to tell me where else you can have so many thrills for a mere $2.00.
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Fortunately I was able to find another favorite house photo.  My French Canadian farming relatives (not gamblers) moved their home from one farm to another on sled runners. The moving was done in winter when the ground was frozen and icy.


You can't see the runners on the big house but you can see them on the smaller outbuilding. 

Notice there are icicles under the eaves on the big house. I'm guessing the move was just getting underway in the photo. If the house moved one inch, I'm sure the icicles would have fallen. I also like the curtain at the window...just as if it was another ordinary day.

For something completely different, here's the trailer for the documentary film Queen of Versailles about the couple who are building the largest home, at 90,000 square feet, in Lake Butler Sound, Orlando Florida. 



25 comments:

  1. How did the church get a house to raffle? I wonder how much money they made.

    Your grandmother sounds a bit like my dad. He was hooked up to chemo but all he could think about was getting someone to run his lottery numbers at the local 7-11. He won a few times, but he never won big.

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  2. The house was donated. Grandma bought a lot of raffle tickets. Gamblers never seem to lose their optimism.

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  3. Oh, I can't wait to hear the other story about your grandma. That's hilarious about her dialing the phone with one hand and doing her rosary with the other. What a character she must have been.
    Nancy

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  4. I'd love to have known your Grandma Lucy. What a completely entertaining story.

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    1. She was a real survivor. Made it through some very tough times.

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  5. An appropriate post with our Melbourne Cup race coming up on Tuesday! A favourite gamble for almost all Australians. I'll look forward to the rest of the story. What luck to win a house!
    And wow! - shifting a house on a sled.

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  6. Your Grandma was a piece of work! There's something wickedly funny about her placing bets with one hand while cycling through her Hails with the other!

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  7. Sounds like a fun grandma to have!!!
    I remember those Sundays after Mass when everyone would gather.

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  8. Gee, what fun stories and what interesting family house history you have. I like your phrase, "She largely won and she won largely." I have not a single lucky cell in my body so I admire those who do. The house moving -- whew! It's hard to imagine how it was done but I have heard that people leave all their possessions, including cupboards and dishes, and rarely is anything amiss when the house is settled in its new site. Do you have photos of the house after it was moved and did they move it far?

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  9. My grandma Rose gambled too and was a devout Catholic as well; but mine played the numbers through the bookie who was also one of the Butcher's where my Granpa and other old men hung out. She however had that bookie sworn to secrecy or else she threatened him with the "evil eye" from the old country. She used lots of her winnings to take me to the movies every Sunday, after church and dinner. Your post triggered that memory. I have never seen anything like that house being moved on sled runners....had to take a long time. How far did they move it?

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    1. Yay! Happy to hear someone else has a gambling grannie. I love the "evil eye" - I wish it would still work. Talk about powerful.

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  10. Your grandmother sounds like an interesting character. The couple building the biggest house sounds crazy.

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    1. The film is actually pretty entertaining. The couple is sort of crazy...incredibly naive and with little taste or talent in the architecture arena. Only in America.

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  11. This was all fascinating. I find the idea of the house on sleds to be wonderfully bizarre. And your grandma with her beads and bets...quite a character.

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  12. You opening sentence could be the first line in a novel.
    Love your granny and your description of her. What a charater! And the house-shifting photos remind me of the fabulous passages in 'The Shipping News'. I must read that book again.

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  13. I met a screen writer once who wanted to do a "treatment" of my grandmother's life story. My family nixed the idea as there are aspects they didn't want known. Every family has their skeletons rattling away in the closet and sometimes best left there.

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  14. Betting while praying, goes to prove that women are the superior "multitaskers"!!!!

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  15. We used to have a flutter on the Grand National but soon decided that was a mug's game. Although there have been family members following and betting on races shown on the TV. Lucy sounds quite a character. I have seen a house moved in Norway but not like the one you;vve shown.

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  16. A house won in a church raffle - how grand! Digging into bad behavior fresh from Communion is just so much fun. Your Grandma sounds like mine with all those rosaries and non-stop praying. They surely followed what the Bible say - to pray without ceasing. Did you have the statues of all the saints in the family altar too?

    Hazel

    Hazel

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  17. Helen, what fun. Granny was a character what with the rosary in one hand and racing form in the other. And then, what a surprise that they could move such a large house. I am thinking it was well built.

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  18. A terrific post on the theme. Lately because of the recession, some people have resorted to selling their home by lottery. It can be successful but only IF you sell enough tickets. The house moving on skis is fantastic. How many horses did it take to pull it?

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  19. A great story, thanks Helen. It's Melbourne Cup Day today, and here in Victoria we get a public holiday to celebrate 'the race that stops a nation' - and as usual, I didn't win anything :-) A woman trainer won this year, so that was quite an accomplishment for her.

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  20. Your grandmother sounds a right character! I hope you've got those rosary beads stored somewhere safe. I'm sure she's up in heaven for all the "telling" of them, she must have done. I love it!

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  21. That’s incredible, to wina a house in a raffle! Your grandmother sounds a real character and I loved your description of the house.

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