The Pink Sheet (circa. 1967-1969)
By John R. Greenwood
This is a story about a fond Saratoga Springs memory.
The cost of the Saratogian Pink Sheet was 15¢ a copy when I sold my first paper around 1967. The Saratogian received 10¢ and the paperboy kept 5¢ plus tips. On an average night, I would haul in $3 to $4. Five or six of my friends were also selling the paper. The Saratogian racing supplement came out approximately one hour after the last race of the day. We would all wait anxiously in Saratogian's pressroom in the basement on Lake Avenue. Mr. Shay was the circulation manager at the time. His son Bill was a professional paperboy. He had an afternoon Saratogian route in Greenfield Center for years but his August Pink Sheet route was the best. It encompassed several of Saratoga’s finest August establishments of the day- Spuyten Dyvil, Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion, the Reading Room, Siro’s Steak House, and the Lantern Lodge. He had the real money route, with lots of cash, big tips, and big spenders. Bill Jr. could rake in $10 or more a night leaving the rest of us jealous and half as wealthy.
The paper would literally be “hot off the press” and we would all pile into Mr. Shay’s Plymouth station wagon with the fake woodgrain panels. He would then distribute us around various locations in the city.
My night began at the corner of Lincoln Ave and So. Broadway, proclaiming as loudly as possible, “Get your Pink Sheet here, today’s results, tomorrow’s entries!” “Today’s results” always cinched the deal. “You have the results of the last race?” they would ask. “Yes sir!” “And tomorrow’s entries!” I would reply. No one else had printed results until the following day. For those who left the track early, they had to have it. The excited customer would grab a copy and quickly pull it apart as they nodded to their wife or girlfriend to, “pay the boy”. The majority of the time it was a disappointed look of a fourth or fifth place finish but occasionally it was a shout of success when their long shot or late double paid off big. Those were the nights that tips would more than cover the cost of a Dairy Queen milkshake at the end of the night.
After heading down So Broadway, I would pop into Mr. Chips’ Gideon Furniture Store, where “Poker” the owner, would instruct his brother-in-law Jim Howe to, “Pay the boy, and don’t forget the tip!”
The next stop would be the Spa City Diner where I would pace up and down the counter trying to peddle an arm full of Pink Sheets without disturbing anyone. I would be scared and hesitant the entire time because there was nothing more frightening to a mild mannered twelve-year-old than temperamental restaurateur John Kontos in August. He would glare down at me because I was in the way of the busy servers. All it took was “that look” and you knew time it was time to go. Out the door, I scooted with a quick 60¢ profit.
Across the street was Twin’s Diner. The Twin’s Diner had good food, a calmer atmosphere and better tippers. By now I'd be up $1.75, the night was young, and the best spot in town was still ahead. First, it was another zag across the street to Topper Pontiac. There I would find a handful of men sitting in lawn chairs, legs crossed and swinging, relaxing in front of the large garage doors. They would be watching traffic and discussing the days hits and misses, soaking in the warm August evening. They were always good for a paper or two, a generous tip, and an encouraging word.
The grand finale of the evening was right next door. It was the restaurant of restaurants. The Trade Winds was one of the great Saratoga restaurants in the 60’s. That list was impressive. There was The Country Gentlemen, Ash Grove Inn, Wishing Well, and Mother Goldsmith’s to name a few. There were dozens more. The Trade Winds was a beautiful stone, hand built piece of art. The stonework, heavy hardwood doors with black steel hinges, and the indoor waterfall were massive and as legendary as the delicious steaks they served. The prices were high but hungry race goers swarmed there after the last race and well into the evening. Here the clientele were “easy pickins” for a polite twelve-year-old boy selling papers to “save for college”. Tips were always better if you answered, “Yes” when asked if you were saving for college. All I really wanted was to generate enough profit for that milkshake and a round of miniature golf. I remember one large and obviously wealthy man who came through every night. He was always, “pretoxicated” from his day at the track. His well-dressed and very patient wife always led him by the arm. Smiling graciously, she would guide him in - and she would guide him out. Each night without fail, I experienced the “Holy Grail” of the evening when he purchased one Pink Sheet with a dollar bill. “Keep the change” invariably followed and off into the dark parking lot they would fade.
Mr. Shay would come to pick us up around eight o’clock. We would plead for him to take us out to Murphy’s for a round of miniature golf under the lights. After what I am sure was at least a 12-14 hour day for him, he would always oblige and grant our wishes. I often wonder if Mr. Shay looked fondly on those times. I have a feeling he did. He kept us off the streets by putting us on the streets. He gave us direction and treated us fairly. As an adult, I look back and admire his involvement in shaping the work ethic of a group of young boys. Thank you Mr. Shay, and thank you Pink Sheet.
John R. Greenwood