When the California Lottery started in 1985, it was a big deal. The advertising campaign was massive, with the spin that lottery proceeds would help fund education programs versus encouraging people to gamble. My parents participated in the lottery fever. Most of their previous gambling experience had been on horses. They were never casino people. In fact, in Ruidoso where they retired, there are multiple casinos and a racetrack but while they went to the racetrack about once a year, they only went to the casino a couple of times over the years. (As a side note, Ruidoso’s racetrack has been making the news for all of the wrong reasons lately, as this New York Time investigation ranked Ruidoso Downs the worst in the nation for breakdown and injury rates.
But back to the California Lottery. My mom preferred the instant win scratcher tickets, while my dad liked to try his hand at the lotto drawings. My mom won a pretty nice prize on a scratcher, either $100 or $500. (This is when the amount of prizes offered were much lower than they are today.) Mom’s win was a big deal in our family. Dad was happy for mom, but more than a bit jealous. As April 1st rolled around, I was at the ideal age for being mischievous. Dad wasn’t one for practical jokes, he tended to be more on the serious side. With the recent lottery win still fresh in our minds, Mom and I doctored a scratcher to look like a big winner. I think it was $25,000.
Mom and I practiced what we were going to tell Dad and then approached him one afternoon, as he was sipping coffee and reading. Mom told Dad to look at the ticket, because she thought she had won a big prize. I backed Mom up with great enthusiasm. Dad was skeptical from the get-go. We tried our best, but finally had to break down and tell him it was just an April Fool’s joke.
Of course, Mom would get the last laugh, when she really did win a big $100,000 jackpot on a scratch-off ticket decades later in New Mexico.