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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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by Jack Frank, '38

The Magpie, January 1936, v. 37, n. 1., p. 14.

It's on Ninety Sixth Street and Broadway. A large neon sign attached to the side of the building announces the fact that, "THIS IS SPORTLAND." A lesser sign informs the public that, "NO CHILDREN ARE ALLOWED HERE UNDER SIXTEEN." You don't spend a nickel at this establishment. You spend nickels. The bagatelle games have an unholy fascination bred in them.

A never ceasing, buzzing sound fills the smoke clouded room. A radio (to which no one pays any attention) is blaring raucously. Coupons are given for whatever score one may reach. The prizes range from Nestle bars to radios. The men follow the movements of the tiny spheres with eager, tense, and strained faces. Now and then above the low undertone of noise, a sharp cry of joy or acute disappointment cuts through the hazy, thickened air. The men, with unlighted cigarettes dangling from dry mouths, and with hats pushed far back on their heads, awaken, with a start, to the realization of how many coins have recently taken their departure. Women play the machines with occasional joyous "Ohs" but more open with forlorn sighs and "Ahs" of disappointment.

Those who play with absorbed concentration and science always gaze with scorn upon the usual round of "kibitzers" who surround the machines. Slowly and gradually, one by one, crowds supplant one another and as the loser drips out, he inevitably says, "It's a racket. You can't win," but, in the depths of his heart, he knows that on the following day he will, with renewed vigor and determination, seek to regain what he has lost. Meantime, the winner of the moment confidently asserts in a triumphant voice, "It's a cinch for me because I got the system figgered"!

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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