I know that people laugh at me these days. They call me “Old Hat” behind my back. But I don’t care, I know who I am.
The hat and 200 dollars in my pocket were all I had when I first came to this town. I am the hat.
It was an early morning, I didn’t know where to go, so I just followed a dog, a Scottish terrier, that I had met at the docks coming in. We hopped along past Baltic Avenue, across the tracks at the Reading Railroad until we came to Connecticut Avenue. I remember how exciting everything was, I remember passing a racecar, a man on horseback – this was a while ago -, a battleship, and a locomotive. I even remember the smell of the cannon I saw at a street corner.
So I was sitting there on Connecticut Avenue with Scottie, talking about what to have for lunch, and you know what? I bought it. I used up most of my money but I bought the whole street right there – right under the nose of the dog.
But now, Atlantic City has changed. My driver – a wheelbarrow – is tired of my comments about this and that house not being there all those years ago, or my pointing out new hotels along the streets, but hey, it’s all true. That first day on Connecticut Avenue, there was nothing there. It was just a empty lot, underdeveloped.
I basically made it the place it is today, while I made my own fortune. I started with nothing, and I bought Connecticut Avenue, then New York Avenue, after Lady Luck smiled on me, and I received 200 dollars due to a bank error in my favor. Two hundred dollars, just like that!
Suddenly I was on my way to the top. I was a land owner, and the best part was that my latest acquisition was located right next to a free parking lot, so when I built my hotel there – The Hat Tower – I already had the parking space nearby.
Over the years, I added more properties into my portfolio: The Hat Plaza, the Hat Tower II, and the Hat Plaza Tower. At one point, I owned half the city, including the electric company, the water works, and two railroads. You could argue that I was the most important person in the city.
Heck, I once even won second prize in a beauty contest, and look at me. I don’t even have good hair. I’m just a hat! Well, I’m not complaining, I did get another ten bucks for that.
I’ve traveled the world, but I have to say that the world doesn’t impress me much. Sure, in Paris, I stand out a little for the way I look – I find everybody else to be rounder, but flatter at the same time – but other than that, it’s all pretty much the same as here, only the street names change.
I did almost lose it all. Life has a funny way of making you go through some rough patches, to teach you a lesson, I guess. For me, it was a series of events. First, I had to pay for “street repairs”, and with all my houses and hotels, that got expensive. Then I had to pay a hospital 100 dollars, school tax was another 100 dollars, and a doctor’s fee 50 dollars.
Finally, I was forced to go back, not just one space, but three.
But the biggest setback of them all was of course the fact that I ended up in jail. It was very sudden, I was out walking about, chatting up a sack of money – call me crazy, but she was hot – in the neighborhood around the water works, and then next thing I knew, I was in jail. No bail.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have one of those get-out-of-jail-free cards. The man on horseback was trying to sell me one, but I told him no. I said I’d rather take my chances and roll the dice.
I got out eventually. Sometimes, even when you think you’re just going ‘round and ‘round, doing the same things over and over again, the only thing you can do is just roll the dice and see where life will take you.
That’s what I did right after I got out of jail, and I ended up bumping into that same Scottie I had met my first day in town.
“Hat, how are you? You look good, haven’t changed a bit,” he said.
“Thanks, how are things with you?”
“Pretty good, Hat, pretty good. While you were away, I got into real estate, too,” the dog said.
Had he ever. The dog had bought Boardwalk and Park Place, and he was rolling in cash. Anyway, he said he was looking for an object to invest in, so I told him I could guarantee him a 12-percent return.
“It’s better than the Xmas funds or your life insurance which only give you a hundred bucks. Even a sale of stock gets you just 45 dollars,” I said.
Scottie just looked at me and nodded. He was thinking, hard, I could tell.
“I don’t know, things are going really well now,” he said, “but I guess I should. Because there’s something I should tell you. I moved in with the sack of money,” he said.
“I’m happy for you,” I told him, but I wasn’t. I went straight to New York Avenue, and I waited for Scottie.
He was going to have to pay.