The extended family of a significant Jersey City illegal numbers lottery figure like my uncle Gus enjoyed prosperity by association. Anyone out or work — or just experiencing a tight week — was welcome to bounce in for a substantial supper.
As Gus made his rounds about Jersey City, Little Italy and even the entire Metro area, he’d stop at bakeries and fruit stands and buy whatever caught his eye. This might mean boxes full of delectables. On the way home, he’d make visits to his circle and present the items as gifts. Whatever he brought to the house, he’d send the dinner guests home with — along with a big plate of leftovers so they’d have something to put in their fridge.
Before Christmas, everybody got two large babkas, one with cheese and one without, (I still remember the happy sight of those large light grey cardboard boxes.) and a container of chrusciki, the fried dough with powdered sugar Polish pastry.
And for those without any income, there also was cash to be had. Students and others of the extended unemployed were able to expect an annual call. Gus would have a winning horse race ticket — either his or some Syndicate associate similarly allergic to declaring with the IRS. The tickets were cashed in the name of the financially challenged who then received 10% of the take as a thank you.