C.R. “Tiny” Boland comes from South Dakota pioneer stock. His grandfather, John Edmund Boland, was a riverman on the Missouri who got his first job on a steamboat in 1868 at the age of thirteen. In 1876, John Boland worked on the Far West, a boat carrying supplies for General George Custer's cavalry on the Little Big Horn River. He subsequently served with government vessels that took part in the capture of Chief Sitting Bull's followers.
When Tiny Boland's father was a boy he cleaned pool tables in a saloon run by John Boland at Brule City, a South Dakota backwater below Chamberlain that was notorious for poker and drinking. At twelve, Tiny's father was a working cowboy roping and rescuing strays for a cattle company. But his early introduction to gambling led to his becoming a professional gambler on riverboats and trains.
Tiny Boland was ten at the beginning of the Great Depression and saw his family fortunes decline drastically over the next five years. By 1934, Tiny and a younger brother were living with their parents on a sharecropping farm at Jackson, nine miles outside South Sioux City, Nebraska. With no money for gambling, his father sold off his farm equipment piece by piece until his wife and children were left destitute. In May 1934, when he was not quite fifteen, Tiny left home to seek harvest work on the West Coast.
My last meal at home consisted of boiled potatoes for supper, no