Joined: Dec 22, 2009
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February 19th, 2016 at 8:14:37 AM permalink
This is the fifth review in my GAMBLING book series. This particular one is also the first in a subset about the history of vintage gambling.

You can read the last installment here http://wizardofvegas.com/forum/off-topic/general/24784-21-a-memoir/

The full title is Honest Sid: Memoir of a Gambling Man. It's about Honest Sid Probstein, an inveterate gambler (mostly horses) and loser whose sunny disposition and outlook on life helped him through the roughness of turn of the century America. It is written from the first-hand view of his son, Ronald Probstein. He admits this book was a written legacy left for his grandkids and beyond for them to learn about who their historical paternity was.

So, why would we care? Certainly we all have interesting and oddball family or parentage with stories of our own, but do they rise up to the level of publishing them for availability on Amazon? Well, the interesting tidbit is who the son is.

Ronald Probstein, the author, would go on to publish his first paper on rocket science by age 20. He's written a number of pioneering books In mathematics, he would become one of the engineers of the 1950's rocket program (that's right, he helped put the first men in space) and is currently in his 80's, serving as Ford Emeritus, mathematics professor at MIT.

Just examining the legacy of his parentage from two people who barely were able to make ends meet, knew nothing about anything more than scalping tickets and bookmaking and being sales-clerks, makes an argument against brainpower being in any way genetic or handed down from past generations. Something the snobbish elite I am sure would not like to hear.

For us, the primary interest is the jaunt through history we are taken on. From the turn of the century to the mid-fifties we are treated to how families and America dealt with the first world war, the roaring twenties, how it was for the author himself to experience the pain of hunger in the Great Depression and on into the war years and post war growth. We are even treated to the fear of Orson Welles seminal broadcast of War of the Worlds and the subsequent (now laughable) panic it brought on.

Through this we see how the gambling scene (which is our primary interest here) existed and evolved in NYC. How the mob controlled the illegal bookmaking and even ticket scalping needed to have controls brought under the aegis of the government to protect the citizens.

Honest Sid did prey on people but it was always in a usury fashion (he never stole anything, remaining a ticket scalper and bookmaker his whole life).

This is a memorable walk through early 20th century Americana and a look at how the sum of a persons parents do not add up to the result of a man of distinguished intelligence - and that is a good thing.
For Whom the bus tolls; The bus tolls for thee
Joined: May 22, 2013
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February 19th, 2016 at 8:56:29 AM permalink
Youuuuuu MIGHT be a 'rascal' if.......(nevermind ;-)...2F

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