Shuffle & Deal…

I wonder what ever happened to good old-fashioned family card games? Do families still play certain card games when they get together? We didn’t play cards at my house when I was a kid. Pretty sure that wasn’t on the approved activity list. But I played cards everywhere else. By the time I hit my mid teens it was one of my favorite past-times. OK, sneaking smokes was number 1, but cards were definitely number 2. Well, maybe after boys, but it was definitely number 3. Yeah, we’ll let cards stand at number 3.


Pinochle game 1970’s. Jim & Mag Van Berkum, Eleanor VB & Elly Lawrence…

Does anyone remember the card game of Rook? When I was dating this Dykstra kid, it was the game his family played all the time. I played Canasta with Loie Ymker and her sisters constantly. We were addicted. Then we morphed into playing something similar to it called Bolivia I think. More decks of cards involved as I remember. Hours just flew by having scads of fun playing cards. (Plus sneaking those smokes).

Once I started dating John, there was an unwritten Van Berkum law you were not accepted in “the family” (geez, sounds like the mafia) unless you could hold your own in the game of Pinochle. One Christmas Eve about 1966 or ’67, I was at John’s house. The Van Berkum’s always opened gifts that night. Usually followed by going to Midnight Mass at the Catholic Church in Rock Valley. Stunning church with a beautiful service. Another “thou shalt not” at the Gerritson house. Mom and Dad were afraid if I went to even one mass a year, I might just turn Catholic. Really? Anyway the little house of Jim and Mag was packed like a can of sardines. And not everyone was family. (Not even me for another couple years). Arly was on leave from the Navy, and one of his buddies, Randy Timmer had stopped to visit him. It had started snowing earlier in the day. It snowed, and snowed, and snowed, accompanied by howling winds. I had no intention of going home early. Home meant no tree, no presents. My house was solemn and quiet. It soon became apparent that no one would be leaving the Van Berkum house that night. Across the road, the snow drifts were about as high as the baseball stadium’s cement wall. It must have been impossible for my Dad to get to the State Highway Commission shop which was right down the block from John’s house. Dad would have yanked me out of that house and hauled me home before he went to work clearing Hiway’s 18 and 75.


Arly on left, Jim, John, and Jimmy playing cards in RV, mid ’70’s…


Although the house was full, no one ever worried about running out of food. My future mother-in-law Mag kept enough groceries in her house to feed a small third world country. For a month. Minimum. From the time we realized nothing was moving outside besides snow and wind, there was a triple deck game of Pinochle with 6 people playing constantly until 12th street was free of every flake. If you needed to sleep, eat some food or use the bathroom, there was someone waiting in the wings to take your place at the card table. Really, using the bathroom was the biggest problem we had. One bathroom and about 25 people in the house. My Mom called often, worried that John and I would be doing some inappropriate stuff besides the minor sin of playing cards. Honestly we couldn’t have gotten 30 seconds by ourselves anywhere with that many people in that house. But she was convinced my reputation would be ruined. Huh, she must have missed the memo. Long gone by then Mom. That ship sailed.


Mag clearing the table in warp speed so we can start playing Pinochle, 1975…


When it was just a Van Berkum family get together, John’s older brother Jim was the one to watch. He’s a very good card player. But a hot headed one too. I think he counted cards. Not on the scale and brain power of Tom Manning. John swears when a bunch of guys played cards at the bowling alley, if Tom was at the table, he could tell you what you had in your hand right after the cards were dealt. But the Van Berkum’s had some pretty good Pinochle players. As good as Jimmy was, he was shocked if the tricks didn’t fall as he thought they should. More shocked and outraged if he got set. Man did he hate going set. (I rarely go set cause I’m such a conservative bidder. If I bid 6, I probably have 7. Keppi-strunt even in cards). Jimmy’s wife Eleanor was very quiet and soft-spoken. God never put a better person on this earth, which she left much too early and young. She was also a very good card player. She set Jimmy on more hands than he’d ever care to admit, even now. And she did this without a sarcastic word, smug look, not even a smirk. Just those dark, dark Baatz eyes of hers twinkling, with just a hint of a smile. Something I could never pull off when I knew the other team was going down.


Card game in Sioux City, 1973. Shannon 3, me, Helen Reinke, Dale Duits standing…


After John and I eloped, playing cards were a big part of our entertainment. Actually about the only thing we could afford. We were so broke in the beginning. The first few years of marriage, the big treat for Shannon and I was picking John up at work every other Friday (pay-day). Stopping at the bank to cash his check (which literally was gone already) and going to the McDonald’s in front of Sunset Plaza in Sioux City! Yay! Any other eating out or movies were not part of our budget. Instead I’d make a nice dessert, brew a pot of coffee, buy a six-pack of beer if the grocery budget allowed. We would have 6 hours of fun playing cards. Doug and Helen Reinke, Barry and Jeanene Kuiper, and Dale and Beth, sometimes Dale’s folks Bert and Wilma Duits. Great people and good card players. Always played Pinochle. And never any babysitters. That would defeat the purpose. Plus the no extra money ever part.

I remember a time when we were playing cards at Gary Junges’ house in Sioux City. Shannon was about 3. They had a son (this was 40 years ago and cannot remember his name) about the same age. We were in the middle of a heated game (husbands versus wives, naturally) and the 2 kids were playing somewhere in the house. But it had gotten very quiet. We went to check on the little stinkers. They were not in the playroom. Bad sign. And the master bedroom door was closed. This did not bode well. We opened the door and couldn’t see a thing. A complete whiteout. Eventually we spotted them both standing on the bed. With huge smiles and the biggest, emptiest plastic bottle of baby powder. The entire room and them completely shrouded in Johnson’s Baby Powder. The floors were so slick we could hardly get to the kids. We called this Pinochle-interrupted.


Sioux City, 1973. Bob Smith, Dale Duits, Elton Hammock. Lots of smoking, YIKES…


I’m pretty sure we played Pinochle with the neighbors when we were living in New Vienna, but don’t remember playing at all in our next 2 moves. Worthington, Iowa was a quicky, and not friendly town at all. The other stop was the farm in Cascade, which I’ve already written about. We would have had to teach the hogs to play to get enough for a card game there. We played some Pinochle in Spencer with John’s sister Elly and her hubby Dewey, but card playing was in a definite slump. I don’t know if there were fewer people around us who played cards, or we just got into other things. Too bad either way. Someone, somewhere had to teach me how to play double deck Euchre because once I got established with the bowling gang of gals from Davenport, we played that card game in earnest, and often.

We’ve been in Michigan for over 25 years and I don’t think we’ve played cards a dozen times. What happened? When we lived in Jackson the neighbors were friendly and we chummed around a lot too. Well, the kids were growing up. That was a biggie. Hauling them to football, baseball, cheerleading, jobs before they could drive themselves. Extra activities at school. Still many nights were free, but no card games with other couples. After Shannon married Tracey, and Adam and Josh were still single, our family holidays often included a night of poker when the house was full. The boys would invite a couple of their friends over and the guys would have a night of cards. Drinking and teasing the snot out of each other. But there hasn’t been couple’s night of cards at our house for way too long. Anyone up for a night of Pinochle, or Euchre? Please come over. I’ll make pie.

When the family was here for Christmas I decided that it was time for our 14 year old grandson Landon to learn at least one card game. Sarah, Adam, Landon and I played several games of double deck euchre. Landon struggled a bit with learning about the bowers. If hearts were trump, the 2 highest cards of trump would be the 2 jacks of hearts. But the 2 jacks of diamonds were the left bowers. Confusing for him until you played it several times. But he loved it and wants to keep playing. I think we may be able keep the family-card-game-playing-tradition for at least one more generation…




One thought on “Shuffle & Deal…

  1. I never really got into cards. Should have – think they're good for developing thinking skills. My father's family liked to play cribbage. My 3 or 4 year old granddaughter quietly got into Betty's make-up bag once. Tried everything and looked liked a disheveled clown🤡(worse than the emoji) Thankfully we were able to clean her up before her parents saw herGrowing up midnight Mass was the custom for several years followed by some serious eating but Turkey, etc., had to wait until Christmas afternoon. Usually got to bed about 4 A.M.


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