Saturday, October 24, 2009

Honest Sid

Honest Sid:
Memoir of a Gambling Man

by Ronald Probstein

(iUniverse / 1-440-14187-8 / 978-1-440-14187-4 / May 2009 / 208 pages / $17.95 / $12.21 Amazon / $27.95 hardcover / $19.13 Amazon / $9.95 Kindle)

Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Sid Probstein lived the life of a gambler and bookie in and around the area of Broadway in New York City during the post WWI and Great Depression era of the 1920’s and 30’s. Sid lived by the motto, “If you’re going to live outside the law, you’d better be honest.” Friendly and well liked, as well as a master of impression, Honest Sid (as he came to be known) was skilled at covering up his shortcomings, creating the guise of success and accomplishment while in fact, he was often just one bet away from financial ruin. Ever the optimist, Honest Sid was quick to find the silver lining in every cloud that darkened his path. He lovingly pursued his wife-to-be, Sally and doted on his only child, Ronald, whom he came to view as his one big success.

Author Ronald Probstein provides for us, in Honest Sid: Memoir of a Gambling Man, a peek inside the social scene of two important decades in American history through the daily life and experiences of his father. Much more insightful than a typical history textbook outlining the facts and figures of a generation, memoirs such as Honest Sid serve to reconstruct the fabric of daily life for which written evidence is often scarce and would otherwise be lost to those of us who have not lived it.

Ronald Probstein left his father’s world of illegal gambling after graduating from high school in 1944 and enrolling at New York University where, during his sophomore year, he was offered a paid research position and awarded an academic scholarship to continue his studies. Probstein went on to become an eminent scientist and is now Ford Professor of Engineering, Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although they came to lead dissimilar lives (My father neither knew nor understood anything about science or engineering), the father-son bond remained strong until Sid’s untimely death. Mr. Probstein’s book is a loving tribute to his father’s life and is of greatest value to both his family for generations to come, and to those of us who savor the opportunity to step back and experience life in a different time.

Technically this book is very well done with a uniform, visually appealing layout and only a few errors in spelling and punctuation – easily overlooked by the engaged reader. I would have enjoyed the addition of some period photographs not only of the book’s characters but also of the NYC landmarks mentioned in the book and the family’s various living and workspaces. I enjoyed reading and learning about Honest Sid and can readily recommend Mr. Probstein’s book to anyone with an interest in the memoir genre or life during the pre-depression and Great Depression era.

See Also: Ronald Probstein's Wikipedia Page
Ronald Probstein's MIT Page
Amazon Listing of the Author's Nonfiction Works

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