Winning A Contest

Who doesn’t love a contest? We have all been on the receiving end of an ad campaign or a promotional blitz that involves a contest. One lucky person (or maybe a “select few”) will be the winner of a fabulous prize while everyone else suffers at least a teeny bit of quiet disappointment and resumes normal life.

Some people seem to be lucky. I remember watching a movie once about a woman who was highly skilled at winning contests. On a smaller scale, there was my Uncle Bob, who just seemed to be lucky. Uncle Bob was a regular guy with a wife and four kids who one day in the early 1960’s went to the gas station to buy a gallon of gas for his lawnmower and thereby got an entry to win a go kart. Lots of people in that small town had been filling the tanks of their Chevy station wagons for a chance to win, but Uncle Bob was the one who got the go kart. He somehow won a pony once, too. I never heard the full story, but for about one summer “Sparky” lived at the nearby fairgrounds, and we kids got occasional rides. My aunt hated the stupid pony and later described the hassles of boarding and feeding it as one of the worst experiences of her life.

I have been much less lucky, but I can recall at least twice when I broke out to a win in a contest. The first was when I was in the second grade and my school was planning a summer carnival. An announcement was made that we kids could enter suggestions for what the carnival’s name should be. I heard the news, got excited, then forgot all about it.

Until one morning when I was preparing to head out the door and remembered that it was the deadline for an entry. My mother looked over the announcement I had not given her until that moment and started reading off some of the planned activities. One of them was a country store, so I blurted out “Glenwood Country Carnival”. My suggestion got chosen and for a brief moment I was a child star.

The following fall the Glenwood Country Carnival got rolling. The school had a large playground and parking lot that provided room for lots of games and such. The big event was a drawing for a new Schwinn tandem bicycle, and I, as the kid who named the carnival, got the honor of drawing the winning name. There was one of those big cylindrical baskets with a crank on one end so that the entry slips inside got jumbled around and around like socks in a dryer. And, like socks in a dryer, some of them got stuck in little crevices in the mesh drum. That didn’t seem fair, but there wasn’t much to be done about it

With much drama (and the proceedings being announced on a loudspeaker) I drew the winner’s name. I still remember it – the lucky guy was Bob Gross. Which I read aloud into the microphone, pronouncing it in a way that rhymed with “floss”. Why don’t people pronounce their names the way they are spelled?

Well, Bob Gross’s name was read (by the announcer, who pronounced it correctly) several times but he failed to come forward from the crowd of downcast onlookers. That was when my second big win came – the bike was ridden to my house, with my family to be its lucky custodians until Mr. Gross came forward to collect his prize.

It was the first time I had ever ridden a tandem bike. I got the back seat of course. After all, a kid on his way into third grade (who had trouble pronouncing “Gross”) was not going to be given the “power seat” that got to do the steering.

I remember the ride and remember parking the gold bike in our garage, and vaguely recall the next day when Bob Gross himself arrived at our house to get his bicycle. You might think that I would get another ride out of the deal. Or, for that matter, shouldn’t the guy go named the carnival get the bike himself? But neither of those things happened and I tried to act happy when the smiling winner loaded the bike into his station wagon.

The second big contest win came when I was older. By my early college years I had become a dedicated car nut – the kind that actually owned cars instead of just looking longingly at the cars of others. When I went a little nuts and bought a 20 year old 1959 Plymouth to be my daily companion (see the link to my COAL story, below) I joined a club that was dedicated to the appreciation of old cars built by the Chrysler Corporation.

That club had a monthly magazine and ran something they called the annual photo-meet. Instead of an actual meet where owners could bring their cars together in one place, the photo meet involved everyone sending a picture of a favorite old Chrysler-built car for everyone’s enjoyment. Part of that photo-meet involved a contest. In addition to normal photos (and a small entry fee), each owner was directed to submit a close-up of a particular detail on the car. The contest was for members to identify the cars from the detail photo.

I found it a fun diversion the first year but didn’t put much effort into it. But the second year was different. I was home from school for the summer and spent hours poring over those pictures and comparing them with the other cars in the magazine. The stakes were big – the prize was to be an unrestored 1965 Chrysler 300-L convertible.

My mind imagined something like the picture above, but because it was described as “as is-where is”, it probably looked more like this.

Or this. It was probably far better than this if for no other reason that it was in California. But no matter – I vowed that if I won such a car I would find a way to get it home.

And I actually did win, with recognition and everything. But there was a problem. The club announced that there had not been enough entry fees to buy the car. They apologized (by letter, if I recall) and said that they hoped a free 2 or 3 year membership would be a reasonable substitute.

It was not, of course. I felt more than a little cheated. I had followed the rules and won their stupid contest, but I did not get the promised prize. Adult (and lawyer) me might have made a little more out of it. Actually, I think I would have eventually prevailed and won a ratty car parked two thousand miles away (which many would not necessarily consider a win) but I was a college kid who just let it go.

Football great Vince Lombardi has been quoted as saying “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” In both of these big wins, that actually proved to be true because I came out of both big with nothing but the stories. Which, as I look back on it all, is enough.

COAL update: I had not found a 1968 Mustang interesting enough. This one was a festival of interesting.


29 thoughts on “Winning A Contest

  1. This is an inspiration to me. I had been meaning to send in my ten bucks to this web site to win a 1971 Plymouth GTX. However I never did, and alas the draw has passed. Fortunately, they do this every year, so now they are offering a 1970 Plymouth Duster 340 for next year’s draw. This is not a project car, this one has been restored. When (not if) I win, I will offer you a ride in it. Unlike Bob Gross.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have entered a handful of classic car raffles – there was a 49 Jeepster and a 4 speed Studebaker GT Hawk. I did not win. The place that raffled the Hawk is currently doing the same with a 64 Stude Daytona convertible. These are all nice driver quality cars. Maybe I need to enter that one. I wonder if I would improve my odds if I registered under Bob Gross?


  2. Wow, you actually won two things (sort of). I don’t think I’ve ever won anything, if it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any in these matters. That’s also why I hate fishing and struggle to find a partner in 4 person card games. Uh, I’ll make it 9’s and 10’s….

    Or maybe it’s because I can do math, that’s certainly why I don’t buy lottery tickets.

    And I’d say that not winning an as-is where-is 1965 Chrysler convertible probably qualifies as a win. You’re a lucky man JP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree – as an adult with a wife, a house and a family, an unrestored “yard driver” car in California would a horrible prize. But as a 20 year old college student on the prowl for adventure I would have been all over it.


  3. If you are going to post pictures like that, I would appreciate some sort of trigger warning.

    Granted I may be particularly sensitive at the moment, as I am beginning week three of replacing my convertible top.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh, a brave man – My mentor Howard once told me how he tried to replace a convertible top and that the job was nasty and led to a not-great result. I figured if he had that much trouble with it I would pass. I needed that job once in my life and paid for it to be done. I salute you! And hope that the job does not drag out to weeks 4, 5 and 6.


  4. I’ve never heard of a contest going back on its word (nor not having enough entrants, for that matter). Made for an amusing story, though I would’ve loved to have seen what you would’ve done with the car. My one contest memory is from 1976, when the Los Angeles Times created a bicentennial year game to help readers learn more about America. Once a week you would identify one of the fifty states from a set of jumbled letters, and answer several trivia questions about it. Mind you, this was before computers and the Internet, so everything had to be found in the encyclopedia (or local library) and then written down. I compiled all of the answers over the course of the year, had my mom drive me down the post office, and mailed off my entry. That’s when I learned how big Los Angeles really is. There were thousands of entries, and several hundred with all of the answers correct. Needless to say, I didn’t win. Can’t even recall what my prize was.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave, having worked for years in retail advertising and related industries, I’m with you, I’ve never heard of anyone “renegging” on a contest prize. There’s actually insurance that contest organizations (and stores etc.) can buy to cover all situations, and I worked at a large regional retail department store, in advertising, that had a “special events” department that covered all these contingencies. I can remember when I was younger entering a contest to “win” a restored Mustang, only to read the the fine print and figure out it was a two year “lease” and that you had to book pretty comprehensive insurance to cover wrecking or damaging the car. Didn’t seem like a “win” to get it for two years, and be afraid to drive it anywhere and have to baby it, and keep it out of the snow and salt!

      Liked by 1 person

      • That Mustang “lease” would be the worst of all worlds, and a horrible prize. This one was put on by a car club just for fun, and I think the idea was that entry fees would pay for the car someone was trying to sell. But as I recall entry fees were under what they had expected, so I chalked it up to stupidity or bad planning where nobody was coming out ahead, so I just let it go – that’s what we nice people from the upper midwest do, as you well know.


    • I have never heard of a prize disappearing like that either. The contest was a thing put on by a club for club members and not as a fund raiser or a promotional thing for the public, so I thought it best to just be a good Joe and let it go. Now I would at least ask some hard questions first. And my condolences on your contest experience.


  5. You traded a Mustang for Moby Dick???? I have no words……but it was a really well written car article. I’m enjoying your series and I don’t even like old cars that much. As for contests, I won a set of kitchen appliances once fridge/stove/dishwasher. That was the grand prize, but it was really the second prize big screen TV I wanted which were still very expensive. It was a display set up at the local mall with the draw proceeds going to the homeless shelter. The top prize was supposed to be worth $8000 according to the ticket but after I was told I had won I was also told that I had to have the appliances moved out of the mall by the weekend (3 days) and I had no way to do that or any place to store them until I could resell them as I had no need for kitchen appliances, so I asked if I could have the cash equivalent, which after they asked the store which donated them, turned out to be $2000. Um…..kind of false advertising, and shows you how much of a markup there is on appliances! I have won minor prizes in the Heart and Stroke lottery, a set of kitchen knives, binoculars etc, but they advertise 1 in 3 odds of winning so I’m not sure that counts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “You traded a Mustang for Moby Dick???? I have no words……” – Trust me, my mother had enough words for both of you. 🙂

      I would be afraid to ask what kind of prizes one gets in the “heart and stroke lottery”. Maybe I am nearing the age where I get to find out?

      Liked by 1 person

      • HA! The Heart and Stroke lottery is a big provincial lottery held several times a year, with usually several million dollar grand prizes, cars, trips, etc…..generally good stuff, but then they have the minor prizes which are usually donations made by companies of their excess or in some cases defective stock. My knife set was nice, the knives were sharp but it was stored in a butcher block type box which had design flaws in the wood so probably not sellable in retail. So if they get donations like that from companies, they can advertise the odds as 1 in 3… marketing. The binoculars were so big and bulky who could carry them. The Canadian Cancer society does the same with their lotteries. I occasionally buy tickets for both, and also for the hospitals Dream Home Lotterys, where the estate like homes are nice and there’s usually a cottage offered as second prize. Of course we always think we’re going to win the big prize! We also have the regular 649 (six numbers under 49) type lotteries where the prize can be up to 70 million maximum, but nothing like your big billion dollar lotteries.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never won anything but won multiple prizes for my former bosses. I entered a radio station contest for a one-week ski trip, all expenses paid, in Vail, Colorado. My mom heard the contest on the radio and said “put Ed’s name on a postcard – he likes to ski and you don’t.” They drew his postcard out of a barrel and he won first prize. Then, they threw the same postcard back in the barrel and he won second prize, a pair of skis. No, they did not disqualify him from winning 2X.
    He/his wife enjoyed the trip very much.

    My younger attorney boss was leaving the firm to take a job at a securities firm as he had graduated years before with a dual degree. I bought him a going-away card and tucked a scratch-off lottery ticket into it. I bought a ticket for myself and won nothing and he won $50.00 so he took me to lunch.

    The attorneys in our Firm had a lottery club and designated me as the person who should go downstairs to the small store and buy the weekly lottery tickets. They wrote out a contract so that I would get a percentage of winnings for my efforts. Weeks and weeks went by and we never even won a couple of numbers and I was no longer asked to do this task. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve never won more than a couple of dollars with the lottery tickets, so I quite buying them. I really liked Ed, so did that for him but didn’t tell him until the woman from the promotions department at WJR called and I put her on hold to run in and tell him. You should have seen the look on his face! They had not gone on a vacation in years. They had four teenagers at the time: a boy and triplet daughters. The kids stayed with their grandparents and they went to Vail a few weeks later.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I think the “Fury” part of the Plymouth was accurate – the car had some type of fury, as in a lemon. I “get” your mom equating it to Moby Dick and her chastising you for trading in your small ride, which I note she also liked driving, for a this Plymouth Fury with its endless issues. The Mustang would have been a better idea. Back in the 70s, we had a local guy with a brand-new car that had a lot of problems. He decorated the car with lots of lemons, fastening them on with ribbons and even had a rooftop-like carrier that sported a huge lemon. He got some action and the dealership compensated him for his expenses. It was pretty nervy on his part though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My Dad always drove company cars, and while he could, selected MoPar all the way (after a while, you could only select GM), including a ’66 Plymouth Fury I with a slant 6 engine, all which seemed indestructable. I did a little partial drivers ED with that car, even tho no one in the family was supposed to use it. The Fury’s that were problematic must have been when we got into the 70’s and virtually all Amercan Cars seemed like junk. After college I had so many problems with Aerican cars in the early 70’s, I was Toyota by 1975 and never looked back!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think your sense of American car quality has some merit. Chrysler Corporation was a special case, and their quality fell much farther and harder than the competition. Later reading shows that the company was an awful mess inside so it was no wander their products were such a crap shoot. The good news was that if you bought older ones from long term owners those were generally the good ones.


      • My parents bought me a VW Beetle (brand new) in 1973. It was a lemon from day one. My father (who was German) said “VWs are reliable; I’ve never had an issue with them.” It was an automatic stick – that may have been its problem as that feature was not perfected. That’s what the mechanic at the foreign car shop told us. I don’t know how to drive a stick shift. That’s good to know about Toyotas … Hondas too I understand. I’ve only had American cars since the Beetle, but just four cars in my lifetime and I’m 66. I put more miles on my feet than my car as I’m an avid walker and have worked from home since 2011.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can attest with all the accuracy my enfeebled memory can muster, that Volkswagons were never, never, dependable, but always cheap to fix. Everyone I knew that had them, and I knew many, were always having problems with them, so much so that my town had multiple mechanic shops specializing in nothing but Volkswagons. Definately NOT daily dependable, but based solely on limited mileage, they might have seemed so. Ditto on the “clutchless shift”.I knew someone that had one, and it was weird. It seemed like when you touched the stick, the clutch was automatically “thrown out”, and after you shifted and the stick wasn’t moving again, it got “thrown back in”…leave it to the Germans to invent something that convoluted that would need constant tuning! By the 70’s, my pals that had beautiful Siroccos, all had warped cylinder heads and needed rebuilt engines…no thanks….it took the Japanese to teach companies how to build 200,000 mile cars that needed nothing over the lifetime but replacement “wear” parts like brakes and batteries, of which I’ve owned more than a few.


    • Yes, there were lots of people who failed to appreciate the Fury’s coolness. I would not classify that one as a lemon – I had to cut it some slack for its age and its era, but it was far from a trouble-free ride.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think I mentioned my first two cars were big lemons. I loved my 1988 Buick Regal, but between the electrical issues and its many recalls, it finally had to go after 21 years … what a sad day. Four more years and it would have achieved classic car status.

        Liked by 1 person

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