Ding-Who Else?

Ding and David Shayt

by Leroy Jasmer

Evan "Ding" Rangeloff has the instincts of a packrat, and that ain't all bad.

His wife Phyllis, known as "Murph" by most of her friends, admitted that she couldn't see much sense in Ding's dragging home a lot of junk. She thought most of it was worthless. Wisely, she realized that collecting was part of Ding's personality, an avocation that he enjoyed, and he deserved to relax with it. She and Ding had seven children to keep them busy also. Murph decided it was easier to go with the flow than to change Ding.

Born in 1932, Ding is a son of the depression. He fondly remembers the lessons about life that he learned growing up in a small midwestern town and working in a bowling alley.

Ding's job as a sales rep (that's a euphemism for 'traveling salesman') for Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company gave him generous opportunities to search for antique treasures. "You gotta' know the territory." Meridith Wilson's line opens the Music Man. Ding knew the territory to his company's advantage and to his own advantage as a collector.

Ding had collections of guns, slot machines, cigarette lighters, cigarette advertising posters and gimmicks, and punchboards. PUNCHBOARDS? He recognized the historical value of the lowly punchboard and how it affected the lives of the ordinary working man during the 20s, 30s, and 40s. You''ll know what a punchboard is in just a moment.

The repeal of the Volstad Act in 1933 stirred up the spirit of entrepreneurship. Small towns with fewer than a hundred people soon had three or four 3.2 bear "parlors," which immediately became social clubs for the working man. Punchboard are gambling devices that could add to the tavern keeper's profits. They're illegal in most states, but that was a minor concern for men who had spent years hustling as bootleggers. Restaurants and filling stations, wherever men gathered to socialize, had a few punchboards too.

A dollar a day was the going wage–spend a nickel for a generous mug of draught beer and a nickel for a chance to win an exciting prize on a punchboard. How many of those men could stand on one leg, that is, on one beer and one punch? How many toyed with the idea of taking a punchboard prize home to mollify an angry wife?

You'll enjoy reading Ding's stories. Not every punchboard came with a story, but the ones that did are special. Ding has a grand sense of humor that catches the subtle ironies of his experiences as a collector. The stories about his boards are in his own words. If an editor had restructured the sentences, changed the word selection, and generally tidied up Ding's prose, this book would have lost much of its charm. His language belongs to the subject.

My wife and I have enjoyed the company of Ding and Murph on many occasions. Ding is quick with a quip. He's a born story teller and he likes people.

The Smithsonian discovered Ding and his punchboards, and their representatives immediately recognized the historical value of Ding's collection. The humble punchboard has become a romantic piece of Americana and the history of our culture. The reason for this book is to keep alive the secrets of a humble gambling device that reflected the mood of the country during a critical period of our history.

Image: Ding with David Shayt from the Smithsonian

Contact Ding Rangeloff at ding@rangeloffcollection.com