Dad gave me a whole half dollar when we went to the the annual Fourth of July
picnic at a huge pasture east of town. "You don’t have to spend it " he’d say.
Mom would add, "You could save some for another time." Dad and Mom had a lot
of good advice. "Throw things away where you can find them later," Dad said,
especially during the depression. "Gambling doesn’t pay," Mom said. And they
taught me that "A fool and his money are soon parted." But this Elks’ Picnic
half dollar was mine, to keep or spend, as I wanted.
That one time each year, I was allowed the freedom of racing around with my
friends, spending BIG money. This picnic was a sort of carnival. We’d check
out the whole pasture full of fun things and then buy an ice cream cone for a
nickel and lick it as we walked back to whatever booth or stand we liked the
best. People were throwing balls at dolls, turning clicking wheels and tossing
coins at a target on a board. Other people were raking the money in with a
stick--or handing out huge, gaudy lamps and dolls and things. Everywhere
people were having fun and some were even winning money.
Last week I was remembering one special Elks’ Picnic when I was in grade
school. There were hundreds of American flags flying and patriotic bunting was
draped over a speakers’ stand; men in red vests and straw sailor hats played
the loudest music I’d ever heard, and there were glass bottles of red "sody
pop" to suck up through a straw! Men yelled through megaphones to get people
to come to their booths. I vividly remember one who kept
Page 2, Gerard, Fourth of July Picnic
calling, "Dollar and a half box of candy for a dime." I watched as several men
carefully rolled golf balls down troughs on a flat table. Eight or ten fellows
took turns rolling the balls. The expensive box of candy went to the one who
could make the ball touch the end of the the trough and roll back and stop
nearest to a red line. It looked easy! The fellow with the megaphone didn’t
even look at me when I extended my dime for a chance to roll the ball. I was
crushed. I’d never tasted "dollar and a half chocolates" and I was anxious to
make that ball stop at the red line.
On tip toes, I finally got the man’s attention and "bought" a chance to roll.
When he got enough dimes to have all of the troughs busy we took our turns
I wouldn’t be telling this if I hadn’t been the winner! My friends, and all
those men watching, cheered me on. I sold the candy for five dimes and rolled
again on the next round. And the next! I didn’t win every time I rolled, but I
went home happy. I had red "sody" stains on my blouse, a box of chocolates
under one arm and pockets that were heavy with dimes!
My parents had a few words about little girls who gamble, but they smiled at
each other when they started to say, "A fool and his money are soon parted."