It’s in the Cards

Playing cards owned by Steinhoff family 02-20-2016When I was 14, Bill Hardwick, Martin Dubs and I got on a train in Cape Girardeau that took us all to way out to Philmont Scout in New Mexico. While we were aboard the Santa Fe, I picked up this deck of cards to while away the time. It’s been living in a drawer with a bunch of other decks for 35 or 40 years.

She’s a little worse for the wear, but the box still looks almost like new. I thought using Congress as the Joker might be a political commentary, but I found that it was the name of the card company.

Dad and I played Canasta

Playing cards owned by Steinhoff family 02-20-2016When I wrote about running across my Old Maid cards in the back of the sock drawer, I mentioned that Dad and I played gin rummy and canasta in the basement in the evenings.

Playing cards owned by Steinhoff family 02-20-2016In fact, I recognize the back on these Blackstone cards. I might be able to remember how to play gin rummy, but I have long forgotten the rules to canasta.

Hamilton cards had a Christmas theme

Playing cards owned by Steinhoff family 02-20-2016One of the two decks of these Hamilton cards is still in its original cellophane wrapper.

Rider Back Bicycle playing cards

There’s a good reason why these were called Rider Back Bicycle Playing cards

Playing cards owned by Steinhoff family 02-20-2016The backs show a winged cherub riding what appears to be a bicycle. This deck’s seal is still unbroken.

Never played bridge nor poker

1930-02-11 SE Missourian Bridge PromoI’m surprised that I was never drummed out of the newspaper business for not knowing how to play poker. That ignorance probably saved many paychecks.

Bridge was a big deal in Cape Girardeau. Here’s a front page promo for Bridge by Radio.

When I transferred into Ohio University my junior year, dorm space was tight, so I was pigeonholed into a tiny room with two freshmen. One of them was an over-privileged twirp whose obnoxiousness was trumped only by the volume of his snoring.

Fortunately, early in his college academic career he discovered all-night bridge games in the lounge. They were followed by all-day bridge games. The other roomie and I didn’t miss him when he flunked out after the first quarter.

Not much news about card games

Playing cards owned by Steinhoff family 02-20-2016With Cape being in the Bible Belt, I figured there would be lots of stories about card gambling. It turned out most of the busts had to do with moonshine, bootlegging, and the “operation of gambling devices.”

Typical of the stories was one in the July 23, 1930, Missourian where “George C. (“Curley”) Norris, who for months operated a notorious roadhouse on the Bend road, was arrested for the operation of a roadhouse, sale of liquor and operation of gambling devices.” Arrested with him when he was apprehended in Poplar Bluff was Edna Conrad, who, the paper pointed out, “admitted they were not married, according to officers.”

Maybe Edna had a salacious twist like the Queen of Hearts in the Northbrook deck.

Revenue stamp dates deck

Playing cards owned by Steinhoff family 02-20-2016This unopened deck of Northbrook cards still sports the U.S. Int. Rev. stamp on the package. Those revenue stamps were issued between 1894 and June 22, 1965. That would mean the deck is at least half a century old.

Mother and the slot machine

Mary Welch Steinhoff, right, in front of Prather Building with half of Advance, MOI can’t let the topic of gambling pass without repeating the story Mother always told about her girlhood.

My grandparents owned several businesses in Advance at one time or another. One was a tavern that had a few slot machines to bring in some extra (if illegal) income. Her parents had to leave one afternoon and left her in charge. She was all of about 13 years old.

It must have been an election year, because the place suddenly filled with law enforcement officers who were going to confiscate the slot machines as being illegal gambling devices. Mother knew that one of the machines was full of money, so she stood up to the sheriff and said, “You can’t take that one. It’s broken. If it doesn’t work, it’s no more a gambling machine than that bar stool.”

They left it behind.

The coy joker

Playing cards owned by Steinhoff family 02-20-2016Kings, Queens and Jacks all looked pretty much the same, but Jokers could have some personality.

Northbrook how-to pamphlet

In case you didn’t know how to play cards or take care of them, Northbrook packaged this pamphlet with their cards. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.

Old Maid

Old Maid CardsChapter 24 of Jo Ann Bock’s book, Around the Town of Cape Girardeau in Eighty Years is entitled Games, Games, and More Games.

Even before those Monopoly-dominated years of the 1940s, I spent my earliest years playing card games like Old Maid, (today the game would be politically incorrect, giving way to an updated title such as Career Girl or Miss Independence),” she wrote.

A trip to the sock drawer

Old Maid Cards 2That reminded me that I had a bunch of old playing cards in the back of my sock drawer. My sock drawer is the repository for miscellaneous old heirlooms that don’t fit any other place. There is plenty of room because this is Florida where socks aren’t a big priority.

I showed the cards to Wife Lila: “Do you know what card game these are for?”

“Old Maid, [dummy].” The “dummy” part was unstated, but clearly implied. “They came in pairs except for the Old Maid. The person holding the Old Maid was the loser.”

Not much of a card player

Old Maid Cards 4I never was much of a game player. I dismiss board games as bored games and nearly got drummed out of the newspaper business when it became known that I never learned how to play poker.

Dad and I spent many an hour in the basement playing gin rummy and canasta, but I think it was mostly so he could win back my allowance. I might be able to pick up gin rummy again, but I’m sure I’ve forgotten all the arcane rules of canasta.

 Around the Town

Old Maid Cards 5P.S. I’ll have a review of Jo Ann Bock’s book in the next few days, but if you want to beat me to finishing it, you can pick it up on Amazon at this link. Here’s an even better deal: sign up for a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime by January 10, and you can get the Bock book with free two-day shipping. You can cancel any time in the 30 days (and I get a $10 bounty for signing you up, even if you bail).

Where’s the Old Maid, you ask? She either dried up and blew away or she ran off with one of the odd socks that’s missing from my sock drawer.