League City’s Ernie Sanchez Jr. embarks today on a fishing trip with his family that is 48 years in-the-making.
He’ll be joined by four grandchildren, two of his four children and two of his sons-in-law after cashing in a prize won on his first Father’s Day as a new dad.
In June 1966, Galveston Island radio station KILE 1400 held a Father’s Day contest, asking listeners to submit letters explaining why they appreciated their dads.
Ernie and his wife, Sharon, were living in Galveston and the parents of 10-month-old twins when Sharon opted to pen a letter to the radio station on behalf of young Ernie III and Debbie.
“Your children had to write a letter to KILE,” Ernie said. “My wife Sharon was the one who entered it, and we won second place, and (the prize) was a deep-sea fishing trip out of the party boat in Galveston.”
Although the radio station kept the prize-winning letter, Ernie said he wanted to hold on to the letter from KILE program director Tom N. Tyler informing him of his win as a keepsake.
Lost in the shuffle
While winning the free deep-sea fishing trip, then valued at $10, was nice, Ernie was a busy man in 1966. The 24-year-old was not only a new father of twins, but he was also working and attending pharmacy school while raising his young family.
Two more children, a career in pharmacy and plenty more fishing came Ernie’s way throughout the years, and the winning ticket became a more and more distant memory.
“I never did take advantage of it because I was in school, working and having kids and everything else,” Ernie said.
Now semi-retired and with his kids all grown up, Ernie stumbled across the old letter still intact with his winning ticket inside while shuffling through a box of mementos a few months ago.
Little did he know at the time that his nearly 50-year-old prize would still technically be valid.
Cashing it in
In March, while attending the annual Houston Fishing Show at the George R. Brown Convention Center with his son Ernie III, Ernie noticed a promotional booth for Galveston Party Boats, and told manager Andy Hernandez about his unused prize.
“I told him that I had a ticket from a prize that I won, but I said, ‘let me tell you, Andy, it’s from 1966,’” Ernie said. “He started laughing and said, ‘as long as it doesn’t have an expiration date, I will honor this.’”
During the conversation, Ernie did not have the letter from KILE or the ticket on hand, and Hernandez admitted he was skeptical at first.
Last month, Ernie decided to pay the Galveston Party Boats office a visit, with the ticket, to set up an appointment to turn in his prize more than 48 years after winning it.
Indeed, the prize did not have an expiration date and Hernandez kept his word to validate the ticket. In fact, he offered Ernie two free fishing trips.
“It was just wonderful, and, of course, we didn’t want to take them away from him. So we decided to honor the certificate so he could go on a fishing trip with his children and grandchildren,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez made copies for his records of the KILE letter and ticket, allowing Ernie to take home what has become much more to him than just the second prize in a radio giveaway.
“I don’t even remember what the first prize was, but I thought it was neat and I didn’t want to give it up,” Ernie said.
Had Ernie cashed in his winning ticket right away, he likely would have enjoyed a fun trip with his fishing buddies — one not too different than any of the many other expeditions on the water he took as a younger man.
Instead, Ernie will spend an 8-hour tour today with loved ones, doing so as the patriarch of a family he started nearly five decades ago on Galveston Island.
Sometimes the best things come to those who wait — especially when there is no expiration date on enjoying it.