Writers’ Group

You’ve Got Trouble

George Stahl

There is a song in the musical, The Music Man called, “Ya Got Trouble!” It’s about the evils that can come out of playing pool, in a billiard room, or worse yet, a pool hall. It warns how young men can get wrapped up in all sorts of illicit things like, gambling and buying custom made pool cues. According to the song, it’s all trouble and that starts with “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool. Yes sir, the con man says, “Ya got trouble! Right here in River City.”

Let me tell ya, in real life, there is another game of trouble. Another game of chance that once it gets ahold of you it doesn’t let go. This game is played with dice, and it’s not Craps. It’s played in houses and rented spaces all across America, not just in small towns like River City. Even in places like where you live, shop, go to church, and your kids and grandkids go to school. It might even be going on in the very house you live in, or worse yet, your grandmother’s house.

Ya got trouble! That starts with “T” and that rhymes with “B” and that stands for Bunco! Yes, sir one of America’s best kept secrets is about a game that has been around since the speakeasies of the roaring ‘20s, has been played in the underground darkness of the prohibition bars, and has been hidden in the closets of America’s underworld for decades. The word itself is a synonym for such things as confidence game, hustle, flimflam, and swindle. In the heyday of prohibition and gambling dens, the police forces across the country recruited members for an elite squad of officers known as, “Bunco Squads.” Much like Elliot Ness’s so-called Untouchables, these Bunco Squad officers, (interestingly, the word Bunco was never used independently of the word Squad) were on their own, and reported only to their own Captain. They were never affiliated with the Vice Department. The Bunco Squad had very little dealings with drugs, alcohol and prostitution, only gambling. For over 30 years these hardened men apprehended anyone who dared to cross the line into the seedy world of illegal gambling. They saw no race, creed, economic status or age difference in the perps they were after. Only if money was being gained by illicit means and from unsuspecting rubes, as the con men called their marks.

Over time, just like a few other government funded jobs, the funds for maintaining this elite squad of officers grew to an unsustainable amount. In other words, budget cuts made these guys “Touchable” and they were absorbed into other areas of the country’s police forces. Today, they no longer exist as a unit. Just as well, since gambling has changed over the years also. What was once seen as illegal, is not, and what once seemed to be a con is now legit and falls under the phrase, buyer beware. The closest thing we have to a flimflam today would be spam, maybe.

However, since the term came into play, there has, as we said, never been a time when Bunco was not used without Squad, until about 70 years ago or so. Bunco was given an overhaul. Another word for con? Not in this case. That was when, in 1953 the game underwent some major changes. It was given a set of rules, the cards were traded for dice, and no money larger than a dollar wager was to be played for in the ante. Oh, and for the longest time, it was only played by ladies, and on a friendly, neighborhood playing field. Preferably someone’s house.

But this did not come easy. Remember, that was the 1950s in America. Women were still expected to only do certain things. Things like, get married out of high school. Only have a job while they were single, and once they had a husband, they’d quit work to take care of the kids, clean the house, cook, shop, make sure the family had clean clothes and even iron them! While they were out doing errands, they’d go to the service station to get gas in the family car, and get it washed when it needed it. Take the kids to school, come home and have dinner ready by the time hubby walked through the door, and even bake a pie or cake in their spare time. Then, after dinner, they’d bathe the kiddies, feed the dog and put the cat out. All while poor tired hubby put his feet up and read the paper with a cold beer or a cup of coffee the “little” woman made for him.

Then, no one knows for sure when or how, but a revelation revolution happened and bam! Wonder Woman was born! Along with her, came bowling leagues for women only, Tupperware parties, and yes, Bunco Games! The word Squad was replaced with Games, and hubby was suddenly thrown a curveball. Independent women all over the U.S. were meeting at each other’s houses and gambling! The speakeasy game of the Bunco con was reborn and women embraced it. Today, it is everywhere and has been reclaimed forever by the women of America who are the new, “Untouchables”! Bunco On ladies!

A Lesson Learned

David Rolf

Last night I had a wonderful dream

and my worries were no more

A giant sweepstakes I had won

my income soon would soar

Five million dollars—now it was mine

was so happy I could almost cry

My very first thoughts, were like many may think

of all the great things I could buy

A big generous home was my very first thought

with 20 rooms at least

The next thought would be a chef I could hire

to prepare for me each day a feast

A high price car would be oh so nice

not one, but two, maybe three

The next thing should be a big motorhome

and someone to drive it for me

Our dogs and cats may sometimes need help

they’re badly mistreated by some

To give them some money, I hope it would stop

their lives from being so glum

There are lots of material things I could do

like trips, or like shows, or the such

Now whatever I think of, I will then try

after all, I do have so much

But wait a short while—my dream has been changed

think how many folks are in need

With all of this money, that really is mine

all their cries, I surely can heed

The children that suffer, who are really quite sick,

need someone that’s special to care

Financially speaking, very able am I

to roll up my sleeves and to share

Our world’s very full, of poor homeless folks

the likes of which we’ve never seen

A great big donation, might give some of them

a place they can live—nice and clean

It seems that small churches need someone to help

when spreading “The Word” to us all

So why don’t I give them whatever they need

yes indeed, I will answer the call

Tho this is only a get dream that I had

I think I can clearly now see

There’s much more to life, than being so rich,

a lesson meant truly for me

So if I step back, and look at my wealth

‘suppose there’s only one thing I can say

To do what is right, has become very clear

“I simply must give it away”