10/06/2011 1:43PM

Keeneland voices behind the scenes: Herb Petit

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Herb Petit

Sales offfice
Age: 83
Years at Keeneland: 36

What’s the best part of working here?
The comradeship between all of us. I’ve liked every man I ever worked with. Back in the good old days we used to start in the afternoon, then we got a two-hour break, from 5:30 to 7:30, and so we got to eat in the restaurant. Not a buffet, we got to order, order what we wanted from the Equestrian Room. And we were allowed to have an alcoholic drink. Most of us all had a Bloody Mary. And our boss here at the time, he used to have two shots of bourbon and a cold glass of water waiting for him. He had to have that.  He wanted to make sure he had that. That was every day.

How did you handle having two jobs?
[Petit is a part-time employee who worked at a bank for 42 years.]
I used a lot of vacation time, to take half days off, since back then we started in the afternoon and ended late at night. I had a method behind it. Our January sales were after Christmas, so I used holiday time. The July sales were in the summer, so I used summer vacation for that. And then the September sales, that was for making back-to-school money. The November sales were for making Christmas money. That was all well and good.

What are the biggest changes?
We’ve modernized it a great deal. These computer systems we have here, I don’t know how we did it without them. We used to do everything by hand. The office used to be a little place, and it was real crowded in there, could hardly move. We used to produce the sales summaries on a [mimeograph]. The purple ink. That stuff was hard to get off your hands.

What’s the biggest transaction you handled?
I don’t know for sure, but let me put it this way – I do recall the biggest cash transaction I had. I had to count it by myself, $139,000, in cash. They waited until the sale was completely over, came in, and then I found out it was all cash. So we went into a booth to have a little privacy, and the president at that time, and the chief of security at that time, and several of my compatriots, they were standing over me, watching me count it. They were all $100 bills, which was nice. They came in blocks of $10,000, basically straight from the bank. During the course of the count – and remember, I worked in a bank – I found two of the bricks were short one $100 bill each. So I had to count it twice. So I said to the lady who had brought that money in, “Would you like these straps [from the bound stacks] so you can take them back to the bank?” Because that’s what I would have done. And she said, “Yes.” Anyhow, it was a relief to get that done. $139,000 sounds like a whole lot. And it was. It was … what was it, around 1,500 bills?

1,390, I think.
Ha. I should have known that. Anyhow, that’s a lot of bills. I don’t know how long it took me, but I was glad it was over. I couldn’t do that now. I’m old. I get cramps in my hands. Don’t print that. They may retire me. And I don’t want to be retired.

VOICES BEHIND THE SCENES

Rogers Beasley, director of racing | Jimmy Young, maintenance

Lewis Leach, mutuels department | Mary Page, track kitchen supervisor

Cathy Schenck, head librarian | Bucky Sallee, track bugler | Ted Bassett, trustee emeritus