Boomer Bites – C1

Canasta, Cards, Chess and Croquet, Church, Cookouts, Cleaning ladies and Cousins, Christmas, Circuses and Crocheting. Cacophony.

Wow! I thought of a lot of C words that influenced my life back in the 50s and 60s. Surprisingly, all of today’s words (the first C group) are games. It made me realize how much time we spent playing games with one another. Television was in its infancy. Life still required contact and interaction with family and friends. Even telephones were used primarily for emergencies. I hope some of these words touch a special memory of yours.

Canasta – my first memories of my parent’s social life are of the nights we hosted their Canasta club. The group was made up of eight couples, including my parents. They met monthly on a Saturday to play Canasta. It was a big deal. The house was cleaned, food was prepared, card tables were set up. And the canasta trays, decks of cards and a bowl of nuts were set on every table. It was exciting. Mom and all the other ladies dressed up in their 50s and 60s garb, with shiny stone necklaces and matching bracelets and earrings. They wore red lipstick, and carried their packs of cigarettes in their small clutch purses. Obviously, my memory is not really of the game of Canasta, it’s of all the preparation to host the monthly get-together. At an appropriate age, my brother and I both learned to play canasta, although neither of us ever played with the ‘club.’ Fifty years later, I refreshed my Canasta skills by playing with friends, and although the game is not as popular as bridge, it’s still a lot of fun to play.

Cards – Canasta is only one of the many card games I played as a child. Crazy 8s, Skip-bo, Rook, and so many other card games originated at this time. Some of them required special decks of cards, but others, like Gin Rummy and War, just used the regular 52-card deck. Playing cards was my go-to entertainment if a book was not available, especially after my grandpa taught me how to play Solitaire. A restless man in his later years, he played solitaire all day long on the stone-topped coffee table, literally wearing out the edges of the playing cards as he flipped the cards over and over again.

Chess– My dad was a chess player. He played with my brother, and I watched, waiting for the day when I would be allowed to play this two-person game. For several years I was excluded, and then the Sunday afternoon came when my brother (two years older) had other things to do and Dad and I were home together on a Sunday afternoon. He was patient with me, explaining the allowable movements of each chess piece, and talking me through the play of ‘castling’ a King. Suddenly, I became the go-to Chess player on Sundays, something that continued until about the eighth grade. Then, one winter’s afternoon, I won the chess match. My father was stunned. And I was victorious.

Croquet – This was a game for many players. In fact, setting up the crochet wickets in the back yard was my required job prior to a family celebration. The cousins were coming over, and this was a game we could play with five or six, depending on which set of cousins, from which side of the family, was joining us for the day or the weekend. I loved the wooden croquet balls with their wide, solid-colored stripes, and I loved the mallets, with the multicolored stripes around their heads. That is, I loved the mallets until the day I walked too close to my brother, who was swinging a mallet gleefully on the front driveway. I was struck unconscious by a blow to my forehead. Obviously, I survived, but I went to see a Disney movie that night with a goose-egg sized bump on my forehead. (And maybe that blow explains a lot.)

Come back for more C words next Thursday.

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