My father had many stories about taking numbers — the illegal lottery — during the ’50s and ’60s down by the corner of 4th and Grove in Jersey City. (The Green Door tavern, Jean’s Luncheonette, Lou’s Barber Shop, the fruit and vegetable store — even the corner itself — all are long gone.)
One of the tales concerned sitting on milk crates on the sidewalk along with some other guys from the neighborhood, While my father was writing out a betting slip, a new car came to a sudden halt in the street in front. A well-dressed, husky young man got out and ran over to the group yelling “WHAT’S GOING ON HERE!”
Quickly standing up — and simultaneously flinging the pencil and paper off to the side — my father asked “Whad’ya mean?” He was puzzled for the visitor was not Jersey City Police — those all were one way or another well-known. Was he a Prosecutor? State? A Fed?
The stranger put his hand in his pocket, Everyone expected some sort of badge to emerge, No, in the wallet was just a driver’s license.
“I’m Harold Delmore of the Delmore Milk Company. Those are our crates that you’re using for benches. I want them back.”
As Mr, Delmore put his hand on one of the then wooden boxes, my father said “Hey! There’s a deposit on these! You gotta pay that first before you goes takin’ anytin’.
“Now confused, “I . . . uh . . . don’t have any money with me.”
“So? You came here lookin’ to cheat us out of the deposit? Get goin’ before I call a cop!”
Harold Delmore ran back to his car and never came back.