Wonderland closes

August 25, 2010
By

Wonderland closing after all these years is a tragedy for this city.

It is a tragedy of the first order.

First, there are the nearly 100 longtime employees who have lost their jobs.

Second, it is the end of an industry, which came to exist only electronically in its last and most current incarnation.

What might have been is what the closed track is all about.

The expanded gaming bill intended to save Wonderland has instead killed it.

What seemed certain at the beginning of the summer turned to failure by the end of it.

When the state government killed the expanded gambling bill, Wonderland came close to death.

It finally died and shut its doors last Friday.

The once proud and busy track, one of the busiest in the nation at its height, is now officially a largely empty parking lot set for sale to Suffolk Downs and then given for development to the highest bidder.

Wonderland’s time had long ago passed it by.

The times changed but the track never really changed with it.

The Lottery ruined it.

The proliferation of Lottery betting and casinos in Connecticut also cut into it.

Then dog racing was banned – and then the track was left with simulcasting – that is – broadcasting races from other tracks across the nation.

In its final months, Wonderland went from bad to worse.

Near the very end, it was a track and an industry on intensive care without a future.

The halcyon days of dog racing are forever over.

We are left with a lifetime of memories – those of us who remember the track when it was busy and the place to go.

We are saddened by its closing.

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

  • Richard H. Cummings

    COMING OF AGE AT WONDERLAND

    By

    Richard H. Cummings

    I started working at Wonderland Dog Track in 1960 as a sixteen-year-old porter carrying food and drink back and forth between the kitchen and the concession stands in the Clubhouse and Grandstand. I will never know the exact numbers, but I do know that I carried hundred gallons of steaming coffee in ten-gallon cans; thousands of paper cups for both hot and cold drinks; thou-sands of hamburgers and rolls; countless other fast food items for customers, who didn’t care what they ate. There were only twenty minutes between the races. And if a bettor needed ten minutes to decide and then place the bet, there wasn’t much time left to eat. Besides, there were no grandstand gourmets at Wonderland.

    Later I cooked hamburgers with rolls toasted for the “winners,” who tipped well, plain rolls for the “losers,” who couldn’t afford to tip. Some nights I stood at the counter selling beer, coffee, coke, and ordering hamburgers from my replacement, who worked the grill. The customers were mostly “average Joes,” but “losers just the same.”

    One of the easiest ways to make a few extra dollars was to save the paper cups that the customers left on the counter, wash them out, and re-use them so they couldn’t be counted after the night’s take-in was counted against the cups used; we shared the money. I learned how to take credit for “burned hamburgers” that weren’t burned and shared the money; and took credit for “broken beer bottles” that were not broken and shared the money. Management knew about it but as long as we did not go overboard, they tolerated it.

    I also learned how to talk to the “losers”: encourage them each to bet on a different dog. Some-body had to win and the winner would come back and give you a couple of bucks as a tip. The “losers” came back and repeatedly asked for tips on the next race, because they heard that I could predict the winners. Something they couldn’t do. I got to know the “runners” for the bookies in East Boston and Revere and their “exotic dancer” girlfriends, who danced at the local clubs.

    Dog owners and trainers would tell us in confidence, which dogs were sick or had small pin pricks in their paws to slow them down due to the pain as they chased Swifty, so you could bet on the other dogs.

    Revere’s “finest,” who earned a few extra dollars by working the track at night, would drink beer in coffee cups and hide the beer bottles in the back room of the stands for refills between the races. It was important to stay friendly with the police: we could always depend on them to help us, when a customer started yelling about the cold coffee, the flat beer, or how terrible the food tasted, which was often. Many customers were evicted from Wonderland for simply telling the truth; the police never listened to them: they protected the stand help from further onslaughts of profanity and threats. They were our “Guardian Angels.”

    Most of the stand customers were men, who, for example, worked forty hours a week at the Gen-eral Electric Plant in Lynn, and who gambled away their paychecks every Thursday night. Men who sat among the piles of losing tickets; ripped up programs, empty beer cups, and broken dreams. No one paid attention to what might have caused them so much pain. No one cared that the men would still have to go home and tell their wives and families that they had lost their pay-checks, again.

    The men had all the same excuses for losing: the dogs they had selected stumbled, were bumped, were blocked coming into the stretch. Their families would have to eat leftovers again; the new furniture they so badly needed in their homes wouldn’t be bought for at least another week; the landlords would have to wait a little bit longer for the rent; the children couldn’t go to the beach, ride the amusements, or buy ice cream cones. They would have to wait, again. Nobody listened to their excuses; they never did. They all had been through it before.

    Sometimes the men would win a few dollars, and this would keep them happy until they lost the next race, and the next race. They kept dreaming about the big night they were sure to have, and then they would stop gambling forever. But that would never happen.

    There had been times when I was at Wonderland when I felt like I was a supporting actor in a morality play. I had my role to play, and I watched with fascination how the other actors played out their roles every night for the one hundred nights each season that I worked there.

    Goodbye Wonderland, and thanks for the memories.

    #

    Richard H. Cummings is 1962 graduate of Revere High School and lives
    in Düsseldorf, Germany

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