Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Day at the Races

The Marx Brothers had a hit movie in 1937 with "A Day at the Races". I loved Groucho Marx, but was not a big Marx Brothers fan. It seems to me like they made the same movie over and over, just with different settings. Harpo is a one-joke character and Chico, as a skirt-chasing, Italian-accented buffoon, I don't get at all. They were right about one thing though...a day at the races can be great fun.

We love to visit Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, New Jersey. We started going there years ago when we needed something inexpensive to do on a day trip with the kids. Now you may think that taking young children to the track is not the most wholesome of activities, but you'd be dead wrong. Monmouth is a family-oriented track in a beautiful, horse-country setting. They have many shaded picnic tables where families can bring lunch and not have to put a big dent in the family budget, unlike going to a "wholesome activity like a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. You need someone to co-sign for a loan at those concession stands, and that's after spending $100 to $200 on tickets. Admission to Monmouth is two bucks for adults and kids are free.

They have activities aimed at kids like pony rides, playgrounds, and a workout ring where they can get up close and personal with the magnificent thoroughbreds. We would let the kids take turns picking the horses we would bet on since their choices were as good as ours. We then took the kids down to the benches right near the finish line, and watched the excitement on their faces as their horses passed by. We could only afford to bet two dollars on each race, but that didn't was the thrill of watching them fly by in a blur of muscular horses and colorful jockey silks.

After the races, if we had a few bucks to spare, it was off to Pizza Hut for dinner. On a good day we would eat at the Rustler Steak House near the Woodbridge Mall. It sounds so silly today to be talking about going to dinner at these places, but money was tight and we really appreciated eating out in a restaurant. We loved the salad bar and the idea of unlimited trips. The kids seemed to enjoy it, and if they sat still for an hour, that was all we asked.

Together time for families is important, especially when the children are young. Whether its doing things together or even just sitting down to a meal each night, that time is so precious. When kids get older they want to be with their friends, and we need to make the most of those formative years to program their little brains. Once they're on their own, it comes down to trust. We try our best to be good parents to our children. I know we made mistakes, but when I look at my daughter and two sons today, I know we did a lot right, and that includes introducing them to my father's favorite pastime and the "sport of kings", horse racing.


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The Whiner said...

Oh I loved the Race Track! I think I won 5 bucks once and thought I was rich! And the Rustler was some fine dinin'...I loved that salad bar and moving along the line, waiting for them to plop your steak on your plastic tray. Not Peter Lugers but good fun nonetheless.

Jim Pantaleno said...

Glad you remember our HOT summer doings.