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Algren's Long-Ago Cons

It's the holiday season, a time of peace and goodwill to men (and women), of nostalgic remembrances of the past. What better time to read about my patron saint Nelson Algren reflecting on some of the finest con jobs he pulled during his boyhood? I find it utterly impossible to resist, especially this Christmas-themed one...

Around Christmastime the paper guys had cards printed and sold them to us little paper guys for a nickel apiece. They read something like this:

Christmas comes but once a year
When it comes it brings good cheer
So open your heart without a tear
And remember the newsie standing here.

That got them, every time. Especially if there was a light fall of snow. And the swindle in the card routine was this: After he'd paid for the verse and would be thinking he owned it, you'd have to tell him no, it was your only card, you just wanted him to see the sentiment on it, it had cost you a nickel, so please mister could you have it back?

I've been meaning to pick up the reissue of The Last Carousel for a while now. Reading priceless reminiscences like this piece just might clinch my purchase.

(Via Destinyland.)

December 26, 2007 in Books, Chicago Observations | Permalink