May 21, 1957
The note was found next to the man's body. It was addressed to the dead man's sister.
"Dear Fanny," it read. "I am sorry to say goodbye, but it is best this way. I leave all I got, clothes and other items, to you.
"The Social Security money will pay final expenses. You take care of it.
"My best to all of you. Your loving brother, Paul."
Police who searched Paul's apartment found one lone penny, plus many
matchbooks and other giveaway items bearing the names of Gardena
They learned through investigation that the man had been gambling,
almost compulsively, for many weeks and his losses were heavy.
The story of Paul's suicide appeared in the papers three months ago. [Note: I was unable to locate it--lrh]
And I know at least two men who clipped it out and saved it.
Because they--one a carpenter, the other a salesman--brought me the clippings yesterday.
"I wish," said the carpenter, "that we could have known the man. We might have been able to help him."
"How?" I asked.
The carpenter answered: "Just by knowing him and talking to him. He had
the same problem we once had, and after all, we helped ourselves. Just
by becoming acquainted with our own kind of people."
Then the carpenter gave me a brief account of the last 20 years of his life:
"I first became interested in the horses in about 1936. And by 1939 I
was hooked. That's when I started making a habit out of missing work or
taking afternoons off, saying I was sick--and then racing out to the
"But it wasn't long before that became too boring. So I moved to
Reno--family and all--where I could bet all four tracks at the same
time. I'd be listening to the race calls and playing cards at the same
The salesman's story was different.
"With me, it was cards. For 10 years solid, I played."
He mentioned, as an example, one poker session in Seal Beach.
"I got there Friday afternoon," he said, "with my paycheck--just like
always. And I sat on that chair for 50 hours straight. I ate a little,
but I didn't even get up to go to the men's room.
"The only reason I finally quit was because the game broke up."
I asked what changes gambling made in his life and he laughed.
"Everything. When I'd get my paycheck I'd refuse to use it for food,
clothes or a good car. I had to have it to gamble, and I dressed like a
bum and ate crackers and cheese.
"I was physically shot and lost interest in everything. I began having
serious marital troubles and my friends--well, we just didn't have
anything in common anymore."
It was, said the carpenter, just about the same with him. He had tried to quit a number of times.
"But you finally did quit," I said. "When?"
"About three years ago. I knew a few others who wanted to quit and we
used to talk about it together. Finally, with two other men, I made an
agreement that we'd call each other every time we got the urge.
"So, when one man phoned another, the second would say, 'Wait for me and
I'll go with you.' Then we'd get together and talk until the urge left."
It worked. The group assumed the name Gamblers Anonymous and took in a few more members.
"Naturally," explained the carpenter, "we can't help anybody who doesn't want help."
The salesman is one of the latest. He joined six months ago.
"I had even tried psychiatric help before that," he told me. "No luck.
I had to find somebody who lived my problem just like I did--and who
could understand me."
The salesman recalled that the first time he met the carpenter they
reminisced about old Gamblers' Alley in Reno--a narrow alleyway behind
the clubs where men in tattered clothes would rush up to strangers to
plead for half a buck to try again.
"When I left him that night I said to myself:
"At last, I met a gambler who doesn't gamble. That's what I am going to be.
"So you can see," he concluded, "that for all of us it's strictly a matter of self-preservation."