Sunday, June 16, 2024


I woke up this morning in Madison, Connecticut (my oldest son's house) at exactly 5:40 AM. 

540. That was my Dad's number. 

He played that number '540' every day. For those of you who don't know, 'back in the day' playing the numbers here in North New Jersey was gambling. Not legal. Oh well, that's really not the point. The point is, that every day, like EVERY DAY my Dad would bet on 540. 

And it was not just $1 but like, a significant amount of money. Every day. I am thinking it was probably like $500 a week, on 540. I would have to ask my older sister if she knows how much, but was not a small amount of money. [ She thinks is was $40 a day, and $100 on payday ]. Back in the day, we were not rich - but Dad made really good money. Let's just say that we never wanted for anything, ever. 

I remember one day, maybe 1969 or so, the phone in the kitchen rang. I heard Mom answer and then give the phone to Dad. He screamed out "It hit!"  540 - his number - was the number for the day.

Because Dad was betting (way more) than $1 every (EVERY) day..... his jackpot for that day was.....let's just say it was big. Big Big. 

And, I remember my Mom telling Dad, "OK, Tony..... you just won back all of your money. And then some. Now please stop. No more gambling. 

And he did. That was it. That was the last time that he bet on 540. 

And then, around a week later.............. the kitchen phone rang again.

This time, Dad answered the phone himself. And I was in the kitchen, alone with Dad. And I saw his face. 540 hit again. His number, 540 was the winning number. 

I could hear the voice on the other side, I could hear the screams and the laughing. "You lucky son of a *, you hit again, you won again!" 

When Dad hung up, he realized that I overheard, and that I knew that his number, 540 was once again the winning number. And that is when he told me....

"Tommy, we did not win any money. I promised your Mother that we were done playing the numbers. So, I stopped. We did not win anything today. Now, you need to promise me that you will not say anything, not to anyone. Especially to your Mother." 

Dad knew that Mom would feel terrible. That she was the one that made him quit 'playing the numbers'. And that because he did not want to her to feel bad, she could never know that 540 came out again - without him. 

When I woke up this morning in Madison, Connecticut - for a second I did not know where I was. Ah, we're at Tommy's house. And I looked at my Fitbit watch, and it was exactly 5:40. 540 on Father's Day in my son's spare bedroom at his home. 

Wow, 5:40. That's Dad's number. I found myself instantly saying "Good Morning, Dad. Happy Father's Day." 

Dad was a good man. He had his vices, as we all do. He never did anything small, even when playing the numbers. Now that I am older I think about how much money he put down on 540 every (every) day..... and what that money would have done in the S&P 500. Imagine investing (I'm guessing $20 to $50) every day in the market in the 60s. And letting it compound. I think that 'playing the numbers' to him back in the 60s was his version of investing for the future - investing for his family. 

Today, in 2024, you can gamble online. You can be in a virtual casino in your smartphone. I am not sure if 'playing the numbers' is still a big thing but I think it is. Since when you win that way - you don't need to report it. It's a big secret. When you win in a casino, the IRS is your partner. When you win playing 'the numbers' no one knows anything about anything. 

So, on this Father's Day 2024 I am thinking about Dad, and his playing the numbers - and his quitting playing the numbers. And how we had that little secret how he won - a second time. 

And how now, at 63 years old, I can remember how strong Dad was to never say a word about 540 coming out a 2nd time in a week..... because he did not want Mom to feel bad. 

Oh, one more thing. I bought clams for the family yesterday. [ We were arguing about buying between 5 and 4 dozen clams. ] We're having an amazing Father's Day in Connecticut. My first Father's Day as a Grandpa. I just happened to look at the receipt from the Seafood store for the clams: $54.00 

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