Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2020/Fall/105/Section003/White Male Gambler

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Unknown
BornUnknown date
Augusta, Georgia
DiedUnknown date
Unknown Location
NationalityAmerican
EthnicityWhite
EducationHigh School Dropout
OccupationGambler

Overview[edit | edit source]

An unknown white male was chosen to be interviewed for the Federal Writers Project in 1939 in Blank County, North Carolina. [1]

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early Life[edit | edit source]

The man’s birth date is unknown, but he grew up in Blank County. As a child, the man had a rough home life. He lived with his single mother who had an obsession with gambling. At the age of twelve, his mother sent him to live with his other relatives because she could not take care of him. He went to school in his early years, but as he got older, he began to skip school and began to pick up gambling, following in his mother’s footsteps. [1]

Teen/Adult Life and Gambling Career[edit | edit source]

The man began gambling at different poolrooms in his free time. He was run out by the older adults at first, but as he started to frequent the poolrooms, he was accepted and invited to different poolrooms to gamble. He started out small with bets of a couple of dollars or less, but he picked up the different techniques fairly quickly and starting betting larger amounts of 10 dollars or more, and then increased to bets of 100 dollars. [1] The man became rich as in a matter of months, but he also became greedy. He began to cheat in order to win most of the games, and other card players started to catch on. He was accused of cheating and nobody wanted to gamble with him. He started to spend all of his money and ended up losing his money as quickly as he earned it. In the interview he stated that he realized all of the money he had earned from gambling was “guilty money,” [1] and it did not have as much worth for him as money made from a hard-working job would. The man lost almost all of his money and never married. His death date and location are unknown. [1]

Social/Historical Context[edit | edit source]

Gambling during the Great Depression[edit | edit source]

With gambling being legalized in many areas in America in the early 1900s, people used this as an opportunity to “get rich quick.” During the the Great Depression, the amount of legal and illegal gambling rose, leading to more and more individuals spending their money very quickly and losing most of it. Many of these individuals were young teenagers looking to earn money for themselves. This was a huge problem because most of the teenagers ended up losing more money than they earned by gambling, which led to many negative health effects. Research shows that “problem gambling during adolescence can lead to adverse outcomes such as strained relationships, delinquency and criminal behavior, depression and even suicide…”[2] and this is exactly what happened. Due to the Great Depression, these teenagers had a valid reason for wanting to earn money quickly. Many families were in debt and could not afford the resources they needed in order for their families to survive. These teenagers and even other adults believed that if they could make a large sum of money quickly by gambling, they would not have to worry about struggling to find jobs or finishing their schooling. The consensus was that gambling was the only way to “get rich quick,” but this slogan did not account for the fact that gambling opened the door to increases in crime and bankruptcy.[3]

Public Schools and Education in the Early 1900s[edit | edit source]

In the early 1900s and especially during the Great Depressions, there was a major decrease in the funding public schools received. This meant that students were not getting the proper resources they needed in order to receive even a standard education. The class sizes were made smaller, teachers were paid less, and the school buildings were not up to the minimum standards of safety required at the time. All of these factors eventually led to an increased dropout rate among students. The students felt that they were wasting time in school and that they could be making money instead of receiving poor and inadequate education. “According to the Economic Research Service of the USDA, in 1960 over well over half of all students never finished high school. Almost 57 percent of urban students and over 66 percent of rural students did not receive a high school diploma.”[4] This statistic alone shows that not enough children were receiving a proper education. It can also be concluded that because so many students were dropping out of school, they needed a quick way to earn money because of the economic disparities during the Great Depression. This can be linked back to the increase in gambling. These two social issues go hand-in-hand. Another problem that was fuel to the fire was the lack of jobs during the Depression. This was also a reason for the students to drop out, as they had to look for jobs as soon as they could just so they could make ends meet along with their family. The Great Depression was a devastating time in the field of education. Although the dropout rates decreased after the Great Depression, the damage had already been done. Many kids and their families still struggled to earn enough money to provide for their families because they had dropped out of school. New jobs opened for the well-educated, but the ones who dropped out had to find other ways to earn money.


Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Abner, John H. A Gambler's Philosophy
  2. Messerlian, Youth Gambling Problems: A Public Health Perspective.
  3. "Gambling in the United States: An Overview" Encyclopedia.com.
  4. Ganzel, Education in Rural America.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Messerlian, Carmen, Jeffrey Derevensky, and Rina Gupta. “Youth Gambling Problems: A Public Health Perspective.” Health Promotion International 20, no. 1 (March 1, 2005): 69–79.
  • "Gambling in the United States: An Overview." Gambling: What's at Stake?. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 30, 2020).
  • “Read ‘Pathological Gambling: A Critical Review’ at NAP.edu.” National Academies Press: OpenBook. Accessed October 9, 2020.
  • Ganzel, Bill. “Education In Rural America.” Living History Farm, 2007.
  • Koning, Lydia. “Education in the 1930’s.” Medium, December 9, 2015.
  • Johns, Roe L. “Public Schools in Hard Times. The Great Depression and Recent Years: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984. Pp. 328. $20.00 (Cloth).” Economics of Education Review 5, no. 1 (January 1, 1986): 92–94.