First Draft: South Shields. A Financial Dilemma
Whilst at Lawe Road I had a financial problem, how this came about is now lost in the mists of time. All I remember is I had spent most of my pocket money during the weekend and I had expenses coming the week.
What little I had left I remember thinking glumly, I might as well have nothing at all. Suddenly a thought flashed through my mind. The dog track at the stadium at Westoe... go up there, take a chance... I can't be much worse off.
Off I went, I was all fired up walking all the way. As I walked that evening the knot of excitement in my stomach grew tighter and the Adrenalin was running. I joined the queue entered the stadium and looked at the race card which had been shoved in my hand. As I looked and worked out what to do I realised it was no good putting anything on the favourite, the odds always seemed short. I spotted the second favourite list , the odds were better. I divided my money up and realised I had enough for 4 races. Yes, I would put a bet on the second favourite each time.
I went up to the Tote window with the shortest queue and when my turn came I gave the name of the dog and proffered my money. The man looked hard at me and said " your not 18, your not even 16. get off with you!". I turned away a couple of paces and stood dejectedly, my face burning red with embarrassment . An arm came from the queue and tapped me on the shoulder and as I turned round a cheery voice said " I'll put in on for you, son. How much and which dog?" I gave him my money and waited. As he left the window he gave me my ticket and said " not a bad choice". Then as an after thought he said " if you want any more bets. Look for me " and he, as he started to walk away said again "if you don't see me go to the the tote when they are busy, they don't have time to check".
The results came up on the board, I'd won and in a daze I went to collect my winnings. The next 2 races I saw my cheery new friend and he put monet on for me again. I again selected the second favourite in each case. I won both times again. I was in a bigger daze. The next race My fiend was not to be seen. I took his suggestion and went to one of the windows when the tote was busy and stood in the queue, my heart in my mouth. The queue was backing up behind me and then my turn came. In a gruff voice with my coat collar turned up I said " a shilling on Black Baron to win". The man's eyes never looked up he took my money with one hand and turned the tote machine handle with the other and handed me my ticket. I breathed a pent up breathe and my heart raced, I'd done it.
Of the 8 races, putting my money each time on the second favourite I won on the first 4 races and lost on the 5th one. I won again on the 6th and 8th races and lost on the 7th race. I decided at that point not to chance my luck any further, be satisfied with my winnings and go home.
As I turned to go my cheerful new found friend passed and enquired of my luck. I told him of my 6 wins and 2 losses and with a surprised look said " thats better than I did, how did you manage that?" I then told him how I had picked the second favourite in each race because the favourite paid such poor odds. My new friend paused, digesting this piece of information and then he burst out laughing and said " you don't know much about dog racing, do you?" I said "no, but I've won over 16 shillings". He walked away still laughing and shaking his head in disbelief.
I left the stadium and caught the next trolley bus going back to Ocean Road. I was over the moon with my winnings, not only had I got my 10 shillings pocket money back I had increased it further by almost 7 shillings. I was full of the exuberance of youth, you can do anything when you are 16.
I never went back to the stadium again to try my luck. In fact I've seldom had the urge to gamble throughout my life other than the odd lottery ticket or raffle. Occasionally I will have a go in a sweepstake or go into the Casino to have a look and then spend my loose change. I've never had the compulsion.