Posts Tagged ‘1956’

This week, we go back 60 years to the month, to find my grandpa breaking the law and probably getting fleeced at the same time.

Can’t beat that combo, can you?

From my grandfather's personal journal.

From my grandfather’s personal journal.

I have only the dimmest memory of ever hearing of the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake (yes, singular — Sweepstake).

Like Conelrad or the Chicago Cardinals, it’s a name from a generation or two before my own. I was apparently 13 when the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake ceased to exist, and I don’t recall taking any notice.

As its name indicates, the Sweepstake was a legal lottery in Ireland, established in 1930. It was promoted as a way to raise money for hospitals, with uniformed nurses — or women in nurses’ uniforms, anyway — drawing the winning tickets.

As the Interwebs explain it, winning tickets were then assigned to horses running in major races in Ireland. So it sounds like a contestant’s chances of hitting the jackpot depended not only on nurses, but horses as well.

It worked for some people: According to news reports, the lottery paid out $500 million in prize money over its half-century or so of life.

But those for whom the Sweepstake worked best were neither the nurses nor the ticket-buyers.

Reportedly, much of the money raised went into the pockets of the people who ran the lottery, with a relatively small percentage — I’ve seen 10 percent quoted — going to health care.

(Some sources say the people who profited re-invested in Irish business, creating jobs in other areas. That’s as may be, but that’s not what the people who bought tickets thought they were supporting.)

The Sweepstake also walked a questionable legal line. It targeted ticket-buyers in England and the United States, more affluent countries where substantial numbers of Irish expats lived — but where lotteries were generally illegal. The Wiki page on the Sweepstake characterizes those sales as a “black market,” and says the U.S. Postal Service destroyed lottery materials being mailed back to Ireland.

So I’ll never know whether the ticket bought jointly by the engineers at Time Inc.’s facility in Stamford even made it back to the auld sod. Since I know of no family legends regarding the Irish Sweeps, it seems safe to assume my grandpa and his cohorts did not win.

My grandpa’s penchant for playing the lottery has been a recurring theme here over the past few years, starting with this post.

And, lotteries like the one described in that post would help kill the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake. As state governments in the U.S. began to legalize lotteries, Americans abandoned the faraway temptations of the Irish Sweeps for closer, safer options at home.

(Which they still didn’t win.)

Bonus multimedia content: This 52-minute Irish TV program is a pretty fascinating history of the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake. Check it out, even in part.


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Monday’s post, incidentally, was the 100th in the history of 5,478 Days/Hope Street. Thanks to all who have tuned in. I will endeavor to keep making it worth your while.

In Monday’s post, I briefly mentioned that my grandpa used to win and place in the Stamford Advocate’s reader photography contests back in the 1950s.

In keeping with the Blumenau family philosophy of keeping everything (and knowing where to find it), I’ve unearthed some of the old newspapers in which my grandpa’s prize-winning photographs originally ran.

Check it out, news nerds: This is what “reader-supplied value-added content” looked like when Dwight Eisenhower was President. (Of course you can click any of the pix to see ’em bigger.)

The above pic appeared in the Aug. 22, 1953, Advocate. The cutline says this picture of my dad, Aunt Elaine, and two slow-moving friends was “the week’s winner in Class III, children and animals.” (I’m sure my grandpa was crafty enough to realize that children plus animals would be a sure-fire winner.)

Although my grandfather’s yard on Hope Street bordered no body of water that I know of, turtles could occasionally be found wandering through.

There exists, in the family archives, a picture (taken roughly a quarter-century after this one) of an endearingly alarmed young me shoving my dad away as he tries to introduce me to a Hope Street yard-turtle.

But I digress.

From the Aug. 11, 1956, edition, here we have an “amusing and unusual” picture that won the top award in Class II. Not sure what Class II was — feet, maybe? Saddle shoes?

I like the dry, boring old-school newspaper photo headline: “Ankle View Tells The Story.” I would have opted for “Two Feet of Water” myself. Or maybe “Standing Water”?

Perhaps the apex of my grandpa’s amateur photography career. From the Aug. 31, 1957, Advocate. This ghostly shot won my grandpa first prize out of 16 “Best in Class” winners over four weeks of contests. For his efforts, he won $25 and a first-place ribbon.

And finally, from the Aug. 30, 1952, Advocate, we have the famous faked girl-by-window shot, which won my grandfather second place in the overall photo contest (presumably it won in some earlier category):

The Advocate was kind enough to run a story about that year’s winners, from which we learn the following about my grandpa:

Mr. Blumenau made the picture with a standard Rolleiflex camera, which is what he uses for all his work. He has been taking pictures for about 15 years and started originally with a smaller camera, graduating to the Rollei as he became more interested in his hobby.

The pensive young lady in the picture is Mr. Blumenau’s daughter, Elaine, who posed for the shot at her daddy’s direction. Mr. Blumenau does his own developing and printing, but has no darkroom at present. He plans to build one in his basement eventually, but at present is a little too busy raising a family. He is not a member of a camera club, but once belonged to the well-known Springfield Pictorialists, a group of enthusiastic amateur photographers who meet in Springfield, Mass.

Mr. Blumenau is a machine design draftsman. What he knows about picture making he has picked up on his own, through reading and actually taking and developing pictures. Judging from the fine results he gets, his method must have merit!

The self-trained lone wolf of family photography (at center) receives his award.

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