Mr. Tom’s Banking Machine

Many years ago Mr. Tom’s clients included some interesting guys who drove flying machines for Capitol Airlines. When these pilots were home they mostly played golf, but they also found other ways to entertain themselves in their off time. Several of these fun loving pilots somehow acquired some nickel slot machines. They created a mini, private casino in their neighborhood.

Peggy worked as a secretary for Mr. Tom’s little law firm. She was the wife of Danny, one of the pilots who Mr. Tom  counseled. Because of Peggy’s status with his firm, Mr. Tom became privy to the boutique gambling enterprise Peggy’s husband and his friends had created for themselves.

But, alas, the day came when Capitol Airlines closed its base in New Orleans and moved to some yankee town north of the Mason Dixon Line. The pilots found it expedient to move with the company to save their jobs, but wanted to take their prized slot machines with them. The law at this time, however, made if a federal crime to transport gambling devices across state lines. Even these resourceful pilots had a dilemma–risk violation of federal law and lose their jobs, or sell their machines. Danny sold his nickel slot machine to Mr. Tom for fifty dollars. Mr. Tom promptly secreted the device in his spare bedroom.

The antique machine was a Savage nickel slot. It was constructed of cast iron and wood. It had embossed metal on its side depicting a red Indian head adorned with the requisite feather. As one can readily see, in those days folks were not as politically correct as some of us are now. The name of the machine and the art work thereon suggested that “Indians”, not Native Americans, were savages.

Vintage Slot Machine

Back then Mr. Tom was accustomed to having friends over to to his backyard to boil and eat spicy crawfish and crabs. He and his guests also shucked and washed down dozens of raw oysters with gallons of beer. Naturally, children accompanied their parents to these feasts. It didn’t take long for Mr. Tom’s guests to learn of his slot machine and request permission to play it. Having gone through the cumbersome task of opening the machine to retrieve lost money for friends many times, Mr. Tom made a rule that anyone could keep what they won, but there would be no more opening the machine to return bad investments.

The children quickly became enamored of the machine and begged their parents for nickels to play. When they won, they would come with double handfuls of nickels and yell with glee, “Look Mama the slot machine paid off. I won all these nickels. How much money is this?”

It became obvious that the word would soon be spread by the children that Mr. Tom had an illegal slot machine in his house. To make it worse, the world would learn Mr Tom had allowed children to play the evil machine. With this in mind, Mr. Tom gathered all the children at one crawfish boil and suggested to them, “Let’s not call this Mr. Tom’s slot machine. Why don’t we just call it Mr. Tom’s banking machine’.” All agreed this sounded pretty cool, so the illegal slot machine became “Mr. Tom’s banking machine”.

Crawfish Boil

Shortly after acquiring The Savage “banking machine”, Mr. Tom was appointed as an Assistant District Attorney in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Up until 1954, when the sanctimonious Senator Estes Kefauver came with a committee to the Parish and shut down all gambling, Jefferson Parish had been known as “The Free State of Jefferson” The Parish thrived on legal gambling. The local Sheriff, Frank Clancy, saw to it that the lucrative gambling industry remained alive and well. His fee for these services was jobs in the casinos for his loyal supporters, who in turn kept him in office for more than three decades.

But in 1964,  Mr. Tom found himself both an Assistant District Attorney and in possession of an illegal gambling device. The Savage had to go.

Mr. Tom had grown up with Helen and Jack. Along with their three kids, they had contributed regularly to The Savage. They agreed to buy it for the fifty dollars Mr. Tom had paid for it and take it home.

Mr. Tom’s banking machine remained available for all to enjoy and Mr. Tom was able to keep his job as an Assistant District Attorney.


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