"A Day at the Races": An excerpt from Angels, Snakes and Ladders
Working at the Races
“And I was induced to get a job at the Calcutta racecourse. Many Jewish boys had already done so and worked there through the racing season which spanned the winter months. They became ticket sellers, sitting behind the small windows of the Totalisator. I was the only one to get the slightly lower paid job of the “marble boy.”
It worked like this. Every time a ticket was sold to a punter on the ground floor of this long three-storey building, a button was pressed which activiated a valve on the seond floor where we marble boys stood looking over rows of metal pipes filled with black greasy marbles; each set of pipes representing the number of a horse. The valve released a marble which descended below to the first floor and helped to activate a drum with large white numerals indicating to the betting public the number of tickets sold on the horse, thus influencing the odds. We had to be on our toes, each managing several sets of pipes, to make sure we filled the pipes with fresh marbles as the old ones fell through. There were special multiple pipes for large one-time sales, so if one was not very quick the drums below would give a false picture of the betting. By the end of the afternoon our hands were black and greasy, and it took time and turpentine to clean them.
We were able to relax only while the race was being run. We had a good view of the winning post.
I only casually looked at the lists of runners and riders, and never thought of doing any betting…”
Excerpt from Angels, Snakes and Ladders : Memoirs by David Haskell Cohen (2003) Yonaty Publishing, Israel, p 66