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My father had a gift. And it wasn’t just keeping a baseball box score in his head. My father’s gift was picking stocks. There was only one problem. Pick as he would, he never had enough money to buy them. 

And so my father, a man who always looked a challenge in the mouth and stuck out his tongue, started an investment club. Five men, meeting once a month, pooling their meager $20 a piece and buying stocks that would, one day, make them rich.  

There was Abe Marcus, who shared a patio with us. He owned a deli on Cotton Avenue and always brought us the day-old danish.  

There was Izzy Podelefsky, a man of limited means, with the brains of a babka. He worked in the toy store with my father. 

And there were the two guys from my father’s lodge. The Loyal Order of Moose, I think. They didn’t have names. Or a secret handshake. My father just called them the guys from the lodge. Years later, he would tell me that he never really went to lodge meetings. He just belonged to the lodge to get a better burial plot.  

These men of fortune sat around our dining room table, a table sparsely covered with Tupperware bowls of pretzels and peanuts. The centerpiece was two six packs of Miller High Life. Every month, before she was banished to the bedroom, my mother would offer to make little sandwiches of Velveeta cheese on white bread. My father always scoffed at this.  

“This isn’t a bar wedding,” he said. “We’re men. We’re making major financial decisions here. That doesn’t go with Velveeta.” 

And so, as was their custom, they all fired up cheap cigars and went about their decision-making process. 

“We should buy RCA,” my father said. 

“Why RCA?” one of the lodge guys asked. 

“I have an RCA TV, and it works just fine. Except for the horizontal hold. The damn picture jumps like a roller coaster at a cheap carnival. But, I’m telling you, within a few years they’re going to perfect it and everyone’s going to switch to color TV, and RCA will make a fortune.” 

“You know what else we should buy?” Abe Marcus said. “We should buy Disney. They’re coming out with their IPO this year, and that stock is going to zoom.” 

“We’re not buying Disney,” my father said, in a voice that shook the house. “That SOB is an anti-Semite. I just know it. We’re not going to make him richer.” 

That was too bad. Had they chipped in and bought $100 worth of Disney stock in 1956, it would be worth $300,000 today. 

A beer in his hand and two in his belly, Izzy Podelefsky chimed in. “I got a tip from a guy who knows a guy. Alaska Airlines. It’s a penny stock now, but it’s going to zoom up soon.” 

With that, my father let out the loudest belch I’d ever heard. “Are you out of your mind?” he said. “Who the hell flies to Alaska? Florida. People fly to Florida. Sane people, anyway.” 

My father was the most respected man at the table. He studied the market. Every day, he’d bury his nose in the stock pages of the Bulletin and circle the winners like a racing form.  

His expertise would rub off on me. In college, a friend of mine had a roommate whose father was a VP at GM. He said when their stock gained 10 more points, it was going to split 3-for-1. And investors would make a fortune.  

He was so sure of this that I took all of my bar mitzvah money, all $725, and bought GM stock and just waited for  

my windfall. No such luck. I lost my shirt. And my pants. And my socks. Did it turn me off to investing? No. But now I drive a Ford. 

September 2018
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