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by Susan J. Decuir

I was in the fifth grade the fall 1956. The time of year that my elementary school, Stephen C. Foster in north Dallas, hosted their annual carnival and raffle. When my teacher asked for volunteers to sell raffle tickets, my hand shot right up. It sounded like fun to me. And with the grand prize that year being a portable black and white TV set, I was confident I would sell many tickets. The money would benefit the school.

It wasn’t as easy as I thought. Most of my neighbors bought their tickets from their own children (my neighborhood friends) who also attended Stephen Foster.

I’m sure Mom and Dad bought a ticket. I don’t remember if my two brothers, also students at Stephen Foster, sold tickets. But, of the two, I was sure that my older brother, Ray, a huge TV enthusiast, would part with a dollar for a chance to win a TV, even if he already purchased one from someone else. After much begging, coaxing, and pleading, reluctantly, he pulled a dollar from his wallet. I immediately snatched it from his hand before he could change his mind, handed him the ticket, and told him to write his name on it. I could be a little bossy back then.

The carnival took place on the school grounds on a cool, sunny Saturday afternoon with cakewalks, dart balloons, a go fishing booth, three-legged races, sack races, egg toss, water-filled balloon toss, and more. It was a fun-filled day for family and friends

When the sun began to slip below the horizon, the principal stood on a makeshift platform and announced over the microphone that the drawings would begin in five minutes. The smaller prizes first. The grand prize last.

The excitement was electric as the crowd moved as one unit toward the principal. Once the crowd settled, he reached into the large glass jar, pulled out the first raffle ticket, and read the winners name on the ticket. Everyone cheered for the winner, but I think most were glad their name wasn’t called. Hoping to win the grand prize.

Mom, Dad, and my brothers were scattered among the crowd. I stood beside my friend. The crowd held a corporate breath when the principal reached into the jar and pulled out the winning grand prize ticket. He paused and scanned the crowd as though looking for someone. Then he started talking about a man who worked for Eastman Kodak, without divulging his name, whose three kids attended the school. And what a great Dad and kind man he was. My heart skipped a beat. He was talking about my dad.

Smiling, the principal finally said, “The winner of the TV is that man’s oldest son, Ray Chennell.”

I was stunned. He won! He actually won the TV. Suddenly I didn’t feel so guilty about coercing him into buying the ticket.

It took Dad, Ray, and my little brother, Doug, to carry Ray’s beautiful new portable turquoise TV safely to our home three blocks away.

The TV set went into Ray and Doug’s bedroom, perched on a table against the wall between their dressers, across from their single beds. Ray’s prize served for many years of enjoyment as he and Doug watched Saturday morning cartoons and Westerns from the comfort of their beds. Sometimes I joined them, sitting on the floor between their beds. I loved the wholesome sitcoms of the 50s like I Love Lucy, Ozzie and Harriet, and Leave it to Beaver.

Mom and Dad watched their own favorite programs in the living room.

I hear people say, “I never win. So, I’m not entering,” or “Why waste my time. They never draw my name.” Well, guess what. They were right. They didn’t enter. They didn’t win.

Sign up ya’ll. You just might win. I have, many times.

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