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What Happens in Vegas

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This “Jackpot Bank” is one of my most-prized possessions. While I’m sure thousands were made at the Reno Plastic Manufacturing Company in Sparks, Nevada back in the 1970’s (and I see a few available on eBay today), my grandparents brought only two back from Las Vegas.

The bank has two settings on the back. One is “Play”, which means you put your coin in the slot and pull the lever down. The coin is deposited inside as the wheel turns, revealing those adorable fruits but no jackpot. The other setting, called “Jackpot”, is much more fun: when the coin is deposited and the lever pulled, “Jackpot” appears across all three windows and the change inside the bank is expelled out of the bottom of the bank. The lever made an enormously satisfying “boiiiiiingggggg” sound when pulled. It was perhaps the best feature, in my opinion.

There were six of us grandchildren and only two banks, which doesn’t add up as far as gifting souvenirs goes. To avoid hurt feelings, my grandparents smartly decided to keep the banks at their house and we kids were allowed to play with them for hours whenever we visited. The banks were on the same level of importance as our “Grandma and Grandpa’s house ONLY” Hot Wheels and Barbies.

My grandparents passed away in the late 70’s when I was just a preteen. I can’t remember exactly how I ended up with this bank–I probably found it at my mom’s house and asked her for it–but the other one hasn’t been seen in years. I have it in a place of honor on my desk, front and center. Even though the circular cap for the back which kept the coins inside is long gone, the lever still makes the incredible sound that can instantly take me back to the Chicago bungalow where my grandparents lived, all of us cousins huddled together over the banks as we played in the back room. Sometimes when I’m having a bit of writer’s block I’ll pick it up and play with it for a few minutes. It works wonders.

But wait, there’s more. Obviously I have a lot of memories invested in this bank as a granddaughter who has had more than forty years of enjoyment from it, but what about the people who bought it? I started thinking about it and became inspired.

My grandparents were within a decade of my age now (ouch!) when they were picking up the two banks in Las Vegas. They were empty nesters by that point, and went to Vegas regularly. They traveled a lot, as I recall. We used to received postcards whenever they went on a trip; actually we usually received the cards after they had already returned home but of course it was their thought of us that mattered. I can picture my grandma sitting in the hotel room after dinner in the evenings, scrawling out a couple of fun elements of their day on the back of a brightly colored postcard for my sister and me, and our cousins, possibly before going back downstairs to the casino for some more fun or for a walk on the beach.

I have lots of memories of my grandparents, but understandably they (mostly) involve interactions with me as a young girl. They were such fun people, and all of us grandchildren knew how loved we were. They were so, so beloved in return. My grandpa was a snazzy dresser and super classy guy who used to hold me in his arms when I was little and dance around the living room, teaching me to count to ten in Spanish. (He also used to let me sit on his lap and drive the car in the neighborhood, oh 1970’s.) My grandma was a kind and generous woman who made friends absolutely everywhere. She spoiled us like there was no tomorrow. I still miss them even so many years later and wish that we could have had more time together.

Grandma and Grandpa 1964
This picture was taken at my parents’ wedding in 1964 but my grandparents look this snazzy to me in all of my memories.

There are lots of anecdotes about my grandparents from the time before I was born that get repeated a lot at family gatherings, but I never really took a moment to think about Jane and Danny and their life as a married couple other than how we all knew how much they loved each other. OF COURSE they had lives outside of their son and daughter and six grandchildren. It makes me happy to realize that my grandparents were out there enjoying the empty nester chapter of their life together, loving each other, just like Jim and I are doing now.

So this little Jackpot Bank on my desk now has a bonus purpose. It’s not only here to take me back, but also to remind me as I move forward to make the most of life in any and every way I can. Truth be told, it’s not that hard for me: apparently it runs in the family! (Thank goodness, and thanks, Grandma and Grandpa.)


  • Momo

    I have such incredibly fond memories of my grandmother and wish I had a concrete memento like this to remind me of her even more.

  • Kari

    I love the bank and the memories it brings. Through your writing, I can actually see your grandma writing her postcards in her hotel room. 🙂