On 25th Street at the foot of The Strand stands the old Union Depot and 11-story office building formerly the headquarters of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Co. In the 50's several hundred employees worked in this building, the Santa Fe providing one of the better payrolls for Galveston's small size of 60,000 population.
One-half block from the Santa Fe Building on 25th Street was the Hub News Stand. The Hub's primary clients were employees of the Santa Fe. One could not get too much in the front portion. A shoeshine. A soft drink. Tobacco products and a few snack items. There was a Bally Trophy or similar one-ball payout pinball. The Feature on the machine stayed at a perpetual $45 prize, and was won occasionally to a cheering crowd. The news aspect of the Hub was not newspapers and magazines, but centered around a small ticker-tape machine located in the back room reporting sporting events scores and the progress of games. Two domino tables accomodated Shoot-the-moon players during their lunch periods.
A counter on the left side of the back room ran its full length. Here parlays were accepted the old fashioned way -- hand written on a white scratch pad. A modicum of security was achieved by using double-faced carbon paper between the original and the copy. It made altering the original, the player's receipt, somewhat difficult with the reversed carbon impesson on the back side. A chalk board behind the counter reported the latest scores from the ticker for the sports in season.
The counter also served as a tipbook counter. The tipbook pictured was used primarily to distribute merchandise, or to award fixed cash prizes.
The Hub ran Take-O-Tip books. This was a deal of 144 tipbooks each with 120 tickets for sale at 5c. The income was $6.00 and the winner received $3.00. Some of the books had printed under the seal above the winning number TAKE 2.00, TAKE 5.00, TAKE 8.00, TAKE 10.00, TAKE 15.00, TAKE 20.00 OR TAKE 25.00. This amount was paid in addition to the $3.00 book value.
Customary operation in Galveston required two deals or two gross of books to be mixed together to help prevent tracking the larger winners. Also, the sale price per ticket was raised to 10c and the Take amounts were doubled. A $25 Take payed $56 to the player, the largest prize. This was a good prize at a time when good jobs paid $70 per week. At our major supermarkets, regular stock clerks earned $36.00 per week; Assistant Store Manager, $60; Store Manager, $75 and Meat Department Manager, $90. Part time employees, of which I was one, earned 60 cents per hour.
Around 1951 the Federal Government passed a 10% gross receipts tax on gambling. Signs were put up at the tip counters:
The payout per book was reduced to $5.00 from the original $6.00.
In 1951 the heat was turned up by the Feds and also by the State officials. The Johnson Act was passed that made it illegal to move slot machines in interstate commerce to areas where they not legal. The slots and one-ball pinballs were described accurately enough, as they were, that their day was over.
The ingenious operators brought in a very old one-ball machine similar to a Bally Entry with a 4-coin multiplier system. There was no coin entry. A control box was placed behind the counter. A player simply paid for his games which were credited on the box. When the player finished, any remaining games could be redeemed in cash and the credits knocked off the box. Shortly thereafter this machine was replaced by a Bally Bright Lights, a strange-looking pinball with a large back box. The bingo machine was introduced. It was a noisy machine because motors ran continuously, and after the five balls were played, the search relays ticked maddeningly. It became a courtesy to tilt the machine when leaving it.
The gambling continued discreetly. When tips were sold, the throw-aways were deposited in a paper sack immediately to keep evidence out of sight. The players cooperated with all measures; Galvestonians believed they were being denied a right to gamble.
The bingo machines did not pay out cash, but had a replay meter that could be knocked off and unused credits redeemed. An attack was made against the bingos because of the free play meter. Not even amusement pinballs were supposed to award free games. The operators masked the replay meter with a two way mirror. Normally one could not read the value on the meter. Two small brass round-head screws were placed on the lower front cabinet that when bridged with a nickle it would complete a circuit to a light behind the mirror allowing the meter to be read.
The Santa Fe is gone, the Hub News Stand is gone, but I still have fond memories of an era when Galveston was wide open.