|The Infamous Lesson About|
The Evils of
Our family used to take long vacation trips from California to Utah every summer.
Notice the light colored car parked in the lot, visible to the right of the 2nd palm tree by the pool. Our family was sure that was our own light green Rambler station wagon and that we'd really lucked out getting our car into that picture. Upon further examination of the picture, I can now see that this was probably not the case. We rarely arrived at this motel before dark, and would certainly not have hung around as late as this picture appears to have been taken. (Judging by the shadow of that blue wagon on the street, it must have been taken in mid to late afternoon on a summer day, maybe 2-3 hours before dark.)
Now over to the east of the motel, a block away according to the
postcard (which agrees with my recollection), there was a restaurant
we usually ate at, called Fay's Cafe. (Hmmm. I wonder if the
cafe was owned by the same Fay Leavitt as the motel? Could be.)
The cafe closed many years ago and the building became a hardware store, which has also gone away. It was located about where the Mesquite City Hall stands today.
For what it's worth, we ate at a number of places in Mesquite over the years. The Polar Freeze Drive-In was a short walk west of the motel. We would often eat at Vonda's Cafe at the east end of town (which later became the Chalet), and sometimes at the Freezer Cafe well toward the west end. One time a truck driver overheard us discussing where to eat and he told us to avoid the Freezer, "It's too expensive to eat there anymore." The Freezer, which advertised "Park in the Shade!", passed into history a long time ago.
Sometimes we'd eat in St. George Utah instead (about another hour away on US-91 in those days).
But it was in Fay's Cafe in Mesquite on a summer morning in 1966 that my dad tried to teach us kids a valuable lesson about:
Our family of 7 (Mom, Dad, 4 little kids and 1 baby) filed into the door and into the cafe, taking the big booth in the corner. On our way back there, we had to pass a rack of several slot machines. There was also a jukebox with a rotating mechanism to display different pictures of famous singers, most of them country music stars of the day like Tammy Wynette and Johnny Cash.
But the slot machines got our full attention. We could see them pretty well from the booth where we ate our typical breakfast of a short stack, or the standard eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast.
Every so often some customer would go over and play a few pulls. Sometimes they got a couple of coins back, too. We loved watching the reels turn with all those pretty symbols: watermelons, cherries, plums, lemons, bells, and that funny BAR symbol. On some of the machines, there was even a little glass window where you could see a whole line of coins in a row, apparently waiting to be paid out.
So we started pestering our Dad to put a nickel in the slot machine so we could see the reels spin. He eventually relented and decided to show us all what those machines were really all about.
"I am going to show you how to waste a nickel," he said.
He led us all over to the front of one of the machines. He lectured to us kids that he was going to just waste the nickel by putting it in there. He talked about all the other things that nickel could buy instead: a candy bar or package of gum from the cashier, for instance. (A nickel used to actually buy things in those days.)
He had our complete attention by now. He had the attention of all the patrons and staff in the cafe, too. Nobody said a thing. They just watched, as did we, to see what would happen.
"But no, I am going to put this nickel in here and waste it."
He put the nickel in the slot. He pulled the lever and released it. The colored reels with all the funny fruit symbols and things began turning. Then, one at a time, they came to a stop.
They stopped on BAR BAR BAR! Bells on the machine started ringing, and a big flood of nickels spilled into the little tray underneath! Some of them even spilled onto the floor! We kids started jumping up and down and yelling, "Daddy won the jackpot!!" And the whole cafe erupted in laughter!
So much for that lesson on the evils of gambling.
My Dad also realized the lesson was kaput, but he was no dummy. The 400 nickels or so that he estimated he got from the machine amounted to $20. That was enough to pay for the family's meal and buy a whole tank of gas for the car.
A nickel went a long way in those days,
even if the lesson fell flat.
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Page created August 10, 2000
Last updated August 21, 2000
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