His father went from a childhood of poverty and cruelty to a being able to provide his sons with everything he never had. But that isn’t why Bob Marrow loved his Dad, or why he always will.
My parents, Harry and Molly, lived in a pleasant apartment in Byram, CT, near where the Boston Post Road escapes the hubbub of Port Chester and begins its meander through Greenwich to Stamford and beyond. My father had been born on the Lower East Side to immigrant parents. Before Harry was born his brother, David, had not made it through Ellis Island (“cradle cap” kept him out of the United States). David was returned to the village ghetto accompanied by another unlucky relative who didn’t make it through. My grandmother later learned that David had been abandoned and was begging in the streets. She returned to Russia to find him and bring him back to the United States. (What happened to them is another story.)
My grandfather couldn’t care for the children left in New York when his wife returned to Russia. My father, Harry, who was born in New York City a few years before his mother left for Russia, was separated from his father and his sisters to be raised in various foster homes where his childhood was marked by poverty. Despite its beginning, my father led a fortunate life. Born in poverty, raised in foster homes for most of his childhood where thoughtless cruelty was the norm, devoid of education beyond the 5th grade; he worked himself from being a milkman to the owner of a business with more than 125 milk delivery routes stretching from the Bronx to Poughkeepsie. As home delivery fell from fashion he managed to sell most of the routes and remained an owner of a milk processing and bottling plant.
He attained wealth beyond his dreams (at one time he owned more than 20 race horses) and had a strong marriage which lasted from 1939 until his death in December of 1999 (about 60 years for the digitally challenged). He and my mother raised four sons, all of whom own homes in Westchester and lead solid, upper middle class lives. His sons’ achievements could not have been won without his assistance. We had cars as soon as we reached 16 years old, we travelled on expensive vacations, we had a Dumont television set when Joe Louis was still heavyweight champion of the world and our tutions were paid in full and on time for as long as we wanted to stay in prep school, college or graduate school. When the four boys and Harry were together, he would sometimes say, “It’s a good thing I was born before you guys.”
Harry loved to gamble and at one time owned trotting horses that raced at Yonkers and Roosevelt Raceways. He played in high stakes gin games at country clubs in Westchester and Florida south of Palm Beach where my mother spent the winters at their golf club condominium. My father commuted to his Bronx bottling plant every week, spending Fridays through Sundays in Florida.
When it came to casino gambling, Harry wasn’t a whale but he was a big fish, maybe a dolphin, big enough so the pit bosses from Atlantic City would call his office and talk to him like a friend, “Harry, we haven’t seen you in a while. How’s it going?” My father didn’t want to confess that he had abandoned Resorts for the Taj Mahal, or whatever, so he’d say, “I’ve been busy.”
Like most gamblers he would never tell the truth about his winnings or losses but I watched him at the craps tables and this is how he would play for about 4 or 5 hours every time a point was established.
$200 on the line and the maximum behind the line, usually another $400 or $600.
$100 “on the outside” which meant $100 on the 4, 5, 9 and 10.
$300 on the 6 and 8.
After the point was established the bet on that number came down (it was returned to him). So, he had $1,600 on the table every time a new point was established. My guess is he made or lost $25,000 to $50,000 on each visit to the casinos in Atlantic City.
Sometimes he would make a place next to him at the craps table and motion for me to join him. I wasn’t a real gambler like he was. I learned from my father that gamblers expect to win and they are shocked, sometimes irate when they lose. This anger can result in some erratic behavior when a superstition was violated, like when the dice knock over a pile of chips or hit someone’s hand who was placing a bet as they were thrown. If he crapped-out when something like that happened, a tirade of quiet profanity would follow.
I, on the other hand, expected to lose; but my father saw to it that I left a winner by placing substantial bets for me while I stood next to him playing minimum stakes with my own money. He would tell the croupier, “Three hundred on the six and three hundred on the eight, for him,” indicating me. It was hard to lose when I was with him.
Harry was transported from his milk bottling plant in the Bronx by casino limo or from LaGuardia in small casino airplanes to the Atlantic City Airport and from there to the hotel by limo. When he arrived with me or one of my brothers, and always with one or two friends from the milk business, he would be given a suite with two bathrooms, a Jacuzzi in one of them, and a bar stocked with four bottles of liquor (scotch, vodka, gin and bourbon) accompanied by small bottles of mixers and a large fruit basket in which two bottles of wine, one red and one white, were carefully placed.
Harry never used the suite except to wash his hands and face and use the bathroom before heading for the craps table. After an hour or two we would have lunch (comp’d), a massage, a shower and then a few more hours at the craps table before returning to the suite and leaving for home.
When he vacated the suite, he couldn’t bear to leave the liquor, the soda, the fruit and the wine – so we’d get a large plastic laundry bag and carefully fill it; heavy fruit basket at the bottom surrounded by the liquor bottles and then the soda bottles topped off with the shampoo, soap and even tissue boxes from the bath rooms. We dragged this heavy bag, like gypsies, through the hall to the elevator, through the lobby and out the front entrance to be lifted into the trunk of the waiting limo. Once, 15 minutes into the ride back to the Bronx, my brother, Norman, said to my father, “Dad, you forgot to take the shampoo.” Harry replied, “Don’t worry; they’ll mail it to me.”
After many years of this routine Harry must have lost more than he should have, and decided that he couldn’t continue to play those high stakes. It would have been humiliating for him to continue going to Atlantic City and cut down on his bets, say from $100 on each number to $25 – so he decided to take his business to “the Indians” at Foxwoods in Connecticut. He didn’t want to create a high profile there so he never asked to be comp’d for a room or meals or anything. He quietly drove himself and his friends or sons to the casino in his own car, went to the tables and played about ¼ of the stakes he had bet at Atlantic City, won or lost and went home. The public bathrooms were fine.
About a year after this routine was established he got a call from Foxwoods. The floor manager wanted to know,
“Mr. Marrow, are you ever going to use your Wampum?”
“You know you’ve been ‘rated’ — Wampum is like dollars that you’ve accumulated and can use at our hotel, restaurants and stores.”
“How much do I have?”
Harry wasn’t interested in using the Wampum himself, so he invited my mother and his daughters-in-law to splurge at the stores. As for my wife, Ellen, it was the first time in her life that she bought anything retail.
Harry continued to drive himself to Foxwoods for many years until he died long after he passed eighty years of age. He never talked about his gambling but sometimes at a family dinner after one of his trips to the casino one of us would ask, “How’d you do today, Dad?” The answer was always the same, “Broke even.”
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