Sunday, November 20, 2005

Games People Play

As far back as I can remember, our family has always played lots of games. We played card games, board games, and anything that required either a little luck or a lot of expertise. Even the cousins got in on the action at an early age. We were all competitive. I guess we played a lot of games because there was no television then, so we had to amuse ourselves in other ways.

My grandparents finally bought a television in the middle 1950s (a Silvertone with pushbuttons to change the channels and a 13-inch screen). They were the only ones in the family who could afford one. There were very few programs in those days. On Saturday mornings, we would sit in front of the screen with a test pattern on it and with the set issuing a buzzing/humming noise while we waited patiently for the program to start. There were no TV Guides in those days and the programming was very sporatic.

The grandparents, parents, and assorted friends would get together to play Canasta, Kalouki (also spelled Kaluki, Caloochi, Kaloochi, or Kalougi, depending upon what part of the world you came from, and was a kind of Rummy), Pinocle, Hearts, Spades, Rummy, Poker, Solitaire, Bridge, War, or Kings in the Corner.

When I was around 10 or so, I was invited into the inner circle to play Canasta. This circle was made up of my Grandma Clara, my Mother Sara, my Aunt Lil, and I. I was probably chosen because they either didn’t have a fourth or because they were so impressed that I could count cards and usually beat them a lot. It was great fun and I felt so grown up playing with them. They even let me be scorekeeper because I had learned to add very fast from working in my parent’s store (we didn’t have a cash register so you had to write the amounts on the paper sack and add up the columns of figures). We either played at Aunt Lil’s house where we were usually treated to the most fantastic cakes, pies, or cookies and cups of tea, or at my mother’s house. This went on for years until I left home and occasionally when I was home for a visit.

My grandmother, who lived in the upstairs apartment, also had a circle of friends that she would invite over to socialize and play cards. Their game of choice was either Canasta, Pinocle, or Kalouki. My sister and I would be drafted to help clean and polish the furniture, and to help make the treats that grandma would serve her guests. We were allowed a few bites, just for taste, but the rest was for her guests. When everything was ready, and the guests started arriving, we were banished back downstairs so the adults could play their games.

The cousins also played a variety of games. Our games of choice were Monopoly, War, Kings in the Corner, Pisha Pesha, Cootie, Parcheesi, dice games, Chinese Checkers, Dominos, Life, Clue, Mr. Potato Head, Checkers, Chess, and Risk.

I remember my father taking my sister and me to Chicago on the South Shore Railroad on a cold Saturday morning in the late 1940s or early 1950s to Marshall Field’s Department Store in the Loop. Our mission was to purchase a Monopoly set. I think the game sold for around $2.95. We used that set for many years. In fact, the cousins would hold tournaments that would go on literally for days on end. What fun.

One afternoon the cousins played Cootie. Unfortunately Cousin Howard was the loser so we made a sign that we hung around his neck with a string. The sign said, “Cootie.” I have a picture of him looking hang-dog with that sign around his neck. We loved to tease Cousin Howard.

The most fun, however, was playing Scrabble with my parents and my sister. My father was notorious for making three-letter words and we kept telling him that wasn’t allowed. Eventually he didn’t want to play with us anymore because he couldn’t use the dictionary to find any larger words. My mother, my sister, and I remained voracious players and we played together whenever we were together. (My sister and I played Scrabble last Thanksgiving at her house in Las Vegas. Nobody else would play with us because they were afraid of the humiliation and knew they would lose.)

We were always on the lookout for new games that we could play. This love of games was passed along to my husband and my children. We went on to play Cribbage and Trivial Pursuit. The problem with Trivial Pursuit, however, is that nobody wants to play with me because I usually beat them. Daughter and her husband bought me one of the new DVD versions of Trivial Pursuit last Christmas. We occasionally get it out, load it up on the TeeVee and sit and answer the questions at random. Not as fun as playing with four to five others.

I guess we have passed along this love of games to the granddaughters. They already have the beginnings of a good group of games, but they are quickly outgrowing them. Dancer Girl has especially moved on to computer games and Little Sister is not far behind.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving next week, the women and kids will no doubt sit down after our meal and think of some game that all of us can play while the men lounge in front of the TeeVee watching football. Let the games begin.


At November 20, 2005 9:55 PM, Blogger jellyhead said...

Sounds like fun!

I am also a big fan of board games & cards - I love the combination of laughter and intense competition! Have you ever played Taboo? This is my all-time favourite game.

At November 21, 2005 5:56 AM, Blogger Alipurr said...

Amen, sister. Reading this was a big light bulb moment for me. No wonder I love games so much, and no wonder I feel soo deprived when no one wants to play games around here! Maybe we should start a "gaming" club, no computers allowed.

At February 02, 2008 6:31 AM, Blogger mjec said...

Hey, I just came across this when I googled for pisha pesha. My father has spoken of this game for years but can't remember the rules - can you give me any guidance on how to play? Any idea of where to find the rules would be really appreciated.




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