Grandpa Fries and the Irish Sweepstakes (or Why My Family Never Wins Anything)

Yup, that’s my grandfather above. In the paper for having won what we were always told was the Irish Sweepstakes. In researching for this story, I think I’ve discovered that it had something to do with the British Grand National horse race. That is interesting in itself as I don’t quite understand how Americans were betting on a British horse race (and it would have been in 1959 or 1962 when Mr. What finished third), but the story how he came by the ticket is the reason I always say there is no more luck in this family.

It’s noted in the clipping above that he worked at Strang Buick at the time. My grandfather was a great salesman. He knew how to read people. He wasn’t the greatest husband or provider, though. He had a drinking problem for many years. My grandmother grew up in a time where women deferred to their husbands and there were many times where they were just one step ahead of debt collectors because he’d drank away the rent. I remember my mother telling me these stories and the first thing I asked was “why didn’t she just empty his wallet while he was passed out drunk?” He never would have known and would have thought he just lost the money over the bar. The answer was, of course, women didn’t do that back in the day.

Things had gotten better later in life and Nana and Grandpa had their own home in the Cambria Heights section of Queens. It wasn’t far from where my parents lived in Elmont, NY.

One day at work, Grandpa’s secretary wanted a ticket for this sweeps or whatever it was. She didn’t have the money for it right away and said she’d give it to him on payday. Payday came and went and she changed her mind, so he kept the ticket. It won.

I’ve noticed in my life I never win anything. I often say “why even bother” when it comes to taking a chance or buying tickets for something because I know there’s no chance of winning it. Grandpa Fries sucked all the luck out of the family with his unintentional win back in 1962 or 1959. I’m thinking it was 1962, simply because he died in 1963 on the same day John F. Kennedy was murdered, which is probably how my Nana still had the money to live off of. She lived off the interest of this and social security the rest of her life until she passed in 1993 at the age of 95. In fact, the money had grown by then. My mother had one sibling and they split the money Nana still had, as well as the proceeds from the home. They gave me $20,000 at the time towards our wedding and our first home and still had plenty left over after that.

But luck? Winning anything? Never.

Until my daughter Melinda was born. She seemed charmed. If there was a chance at winning something, she seemed to fall into it. There are a few times that stand out, such at our hotel Christmas party when we both worked there. She won the grand prize, which she was too young to use, so I got to take the trip to Bar Harbor with friends. After she passed, we went on a Disney cruise as a family. We were new owners of Disney Vacation Club at the time and went to the DVC meet on the cruise. We won the drawing for a $200 shipboard credit. Honestly, that’s the only time in my life I can ever remember actually winning something. I give credit to my late daughter – I think she was telling us to be a family again.

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