Charlie Courtois

Beating Vegas, & Bringing Home the Bacon

By:  Charlie Courtois  •   •  11 years ago  •  0 comments

Beating Vegas, & Bringing Home the Bacon

Part III of My Story continues. Part II Part I


Today, we continue on after the Bank of America was graced with my presence for the first time. Working the night-owl shift was a real hoot. We got there at eleven o'clock, at least that's when we were supposed to get there, but the first night I found out the owl-shift had some leeway. There were about 100 women pounding on IBM machines that had a rotating tumbler with a slot for each bank, and my job was to correct the type o's and balance each tape. Work ended when we were balanced, e.g., all one hundred machines. Sometimes we were done at 4:00 A.M. and sometimes at 7:00 A.M. Suffice it to say, everybody was quite curious why someone my age was working the midnight shift, and I remained a mystery for the whole three years I worked there. Easy money, for sure, and the people were just hard working stiffs like me.

By now I had forgotten about my beginnings with starvation wages, and as I thought about what my dad earned at the French Line, about 20K a year. Between the bank and the California National Guard full-time I think I was bringing home about $7,200 a year. I had nothing to crow about to anyone, but I was independent. I kept scheming. Hoping that I would figure something out; but the fact that I was still a minor, there were ooh so many closed doors. Sold some cars, and got to use a demo gratis. Of all things I sold the Edsel when it came out. What a bomb, but to me it was jingle in my pocket. I never told anyone at the bank that I sold cars, because even then car salesman had a terrible reputation, and I guess it was often well deserved, because one had to do whatever the boss said to do. Honest Injun! I was not in control...

Since the location of my National Guard battalion where I worked was in downtown LA, there came a time when Dick and I found another apartment down there. He worked in upper Pasadena during the day, and I was close to the Hollywood area. So, after several months of day and night work, it began to take its toll and I had more and more trouble waking up in time to get to my day job. If I got through early, I tended to oversleep. So, the moral to the graveyard shift turned out to be an impossible dream. Never enough sleep, but the bills were paid and neither of us had any time to spend much.

Those were the days of the all-you-could-eat-for-a-dollar which was quite new, and common. Naturally, I made a pig of myself, and gained wight that took until basic training in the Army to lose. The two job routine was wearing on us both.

One day, Dick and I, got the bright idea to take a junket to Las Vegas with a deal you couldn't refuse...roundtrip airfare, $10 dollars in gambling chips was all it cost. when you went to a down-town casino, since there were only the casinos on the strip, The Sands, The Desert Inn, The Flamingo , The 70_blogs.jpg Aladdin and a hand-full more (see an old clip of Vegas from 1956) ; but, nevertheless sparse compared to now with hundreds. I was illegal, but I got by OK, downtown, and with $25 dollars and $10 in chips, we both pooled our money, because I wasn't supposed to gamble, so, since my roommate was of age, we managed to parlay our pittance into five grand that afternoon; then, we wired the moo-la back to our joint bank account we had set up to pay rent, utilities, etc.

Now the kitty was looking pretty fat, and we went out on the town to the strip for fun to the Desert Inn, and the highlight of my night was meeting Keely Smith, the singer, and hanging out with her in between her singing performances. Oh my goodness, I was in love. The problem was she had a rich boyfriend, Louis Prima, who later became his fourth wife. Dick and I were on cloud nine for our trip back to LA, only because we both had to be back at the banks at 11:00. Vegas became an obsession for us, however, we never gave back what we won, but we tried over and over to figure out how to make a living there. It never worked!

That we had a spring in our step, is an understatement. We talked a good bit about how to invest our money, and one day, on our bank day off, we were in Pasadena at on old haunt, Fosters Bar &
Grill. Right across from the restaurant there was a Union 76 station where we had traded and knew the owner. This day the owner, Fred, offered to buy us a drink at Fosters, and that is when he told us about his divorce, and having the need to sell his station. We were hooked, made a deal, and tried to run the business with the existing staff. Fortunately, we didn't quit our jobs, because neither I, nor Dick, liked being grease monkeys, so, we owned the station from May to August that year. Sold it, and got our money out of it, no pain no gain.

Not long after that, we heard about a bowling alley out by the Santa Anita racetrack, and as luck would have it, we were able to make a deal, and unbelievably I was a partner in a thriving operation. No sooner than I got over the euphoria of my good fortune the A.B.C., the alcohol licensing people, came knocking on our door. Bad news for the kid, the rules were that since I was a minor, and we sold alcohol on the premises, I could not be a partner. I decided to buy back my share of the partnership, and Dick and I parted ways. I think he probably went back to Oregon where his family was from, and that is the last I ever heard of Dick Rohlffs. Just two ships in the night, and I believe was was happy to have the whole pie. I of course wasted by good fortune on clothes, cars, and girls, but that is for later.

Part II - Part I 71_blogs.jpg Next: Part IV Buying, selling a house, bringing my mom and sister from Ohio, renting an apartment and much more. The gold was not glittering as much as it had before but life continues. See you next time, if you're still with me. :-)


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