Admittedly, I'm an old-time guy, with old-time ways. I have a cell phone which I use when at horse sales or at the races, but little else. I have a computer on which I perform only very basic functions.
I did not applaud the dawn of the computer age, though I am awed by it. The present day vision of human beings staring at a computer screen hours on end has no charm for me. This age of technology caused me to reflect on wagering on horse races. This exercise is now done in an ultra-efficient manner. One can sit in one's study at home and, through the internet, bet on a horse in California or England.
But dear to my heart is the memory of bookmakers. I do not wish to elaborate unnecessarily on any illegal activities in my past, but truthfully, in earlier days I bet with many a bookie-and have found it one of life's delicious experiences. Winning and, yes, losing.
Almost every town had at least one bookmaker in the old days. I remember well "Sheriff" in Atlanta, Barney in Louisville, Britches in Nashville, Billy Mills in Huntington, West Virginia, Skeezix in Miami, and Bundle Boy in New Orleans. Meticulously honest they were, and had to be. Their trade demanded it! But the naughtiness of their commerce was titillating to me.
I have left money-and received it-in pool rooms, boarding houses, hat blocking shops, newsstands, hotel lobbies and well-concealed betting parlors.
In Nashville, I remember the bookmaker's place of business was ostensibly a newsstand. Arrayed inside were covers of Collier's Saturday Evening Post, Time, Better Homes and Gardens… but pasted inside were that day's entries at Belmont Park, Santa Anita, Pimlico, etc. Of course, the police had to be looking for crime in other areas.
An example of bookmakers' honesty… At a time when the heat was on with my usual connection, I found a bookmaker in Louisville-one Barney, no last name. Barney, however, did not care to do business via the telephone. At his insistence, we corresponded through the U. S. mail. This system did not permit reaction to late-breaking developments. Obviously, one planned one's wager a week ahead of time-obviously on a major stakes engagement.
I once wrote Barney on Monday that I wanted twenty dollars to win on George Royal in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita on the coming Saturday. I then assumed the bet was down. George Royal lost. I said goodbye to the twenty bucks. But the next week I got a letter in the mail from Barney. Enclosed was my twenty dollars with this brief note-"didn't get here in time."
Bookmakers-not as efficient as wagering al la internet, but much zestier in a kinder, gentler time. I do miss them.
This is Cot Campbell and this is my view. (A fictitious one, of course!)