Sentimental Sunday – Playing “Hearts” Through the Mail

Easter Sunday 1952
I love to play cards – poker, hearts, canasta … you name it. This is because I was raised by some serious card-playing Cubbages. Family favorites included hearts, poker and “aw $hit” (also known as “oh hell” or ”aw pshaw”). If there were Cubbages gathered together, there was always card game. I think of my grandfather – Art Cubbage, known to us as Pop-Pop – whenever we play. We even had an honorary game of “aw $hit” after Pop-Pop’s funeral.

My grandfather was an avid card player. I can remember being too young to play, but hearing the laughing, and occasionally yelling, when they played cards. As we kids got older, we learned the games and started playing with my parents and my grandfather. And I distinctly remember him getting frustrated at times with how we played (“I wonder what the hell that call means?”). These wonderful memories make me smile when I see my extended family and we get a game of hearts going after dinner.And when we play with my kids, I often tell them two of my favorite card-playing stories about Pop-Pop …

Story #1: Pop-Pop’s favorite card game was Hearts. And he was good. He played regularly with his friends Bob and Ralph. They would get together every year or so for a Hearts Tournament, where they would meet and play for the weekend. They had a flag with a heart on it, a medal for the weekend champion (who kept it until the next tournament), and some years even had matching shirts! It sounds like such a fun weekend away to me!

I have a few pictures from their card-playing adventures:

easter sunday 1952_0001
“Easter Sunday 1952”

Easter Sunday! This was when Pop-Pop was living in New Jersey and my grandmother and the boys were still in Pittsburgh. I wonder how he got away with that one!

hearts tour april 1953 (1)
“Hearts Tour April 1953”


Hearts Tour April 1954
“Hearts Tour April 1954”
hearts tour 1958, zanesville, oh
“Hearts Tour 1958, Zanesville, OH”

Story #2: This is my favorite card-playing story about Pop-Pop and his buddies … and how much they loved playing cards. In between these tournaments they played cards by mail! Yep, good old snail mail – no online hearts like we can play today. It’s hard to imagine, and to explain, but here are the basics …

One of them would deal out the cards and mail them to the other two players (each person would get his 17-card hand, and I’m guessing that he held onto the “kitty” until the first hard). Then the person who was to the “left of the dealer” would mail his card that he “played” to the next player, who would add his card and mail both to the next. The dealer would mail the “trick” to the winner, who would then play a card to his “left” and so on. These games would last months. Those were some serious card players! In this day and age of instant gratification and immediate results, it’s hard to imagine a game going on for that long. But I can envision how excited they were when they received an envelope of cards in the mail!

In the 1960s and 1970s, my grandfather hosted a poker game in his cellar twice a month with some friends from his neighborhood in New Providence. This picture is probably from the mid-1960s. My grandfather is in the middle … with all of the poker chips! The young fellow to the left is my father, who was probably sitting in for one of the guys.

image 42

At some point in the mid-1970s, my Dad brought me and my sister along when he went to play one Friday night. And you can ask my sister … we still remember listening to their chatter in the cellar through the heating ducts from upstairs!

Fast forward another 20 years and the weekend card playing returned! This time Pop-Pop played “aw $hit” (notice the matching sweatshirts for the occasion!) near the Poconos with his sons Jeff and Corky, and his friend Willie.

aw shit tourn. poconos

Both of my sons are good card players, and we enjoy playing a few hands over school breaks or with the rest of the Cubbage clan. This family tradition will be passed down to another generation of Cubbage descendants!


Happy Birthday and Happy New Year!

Happy Birthday Pop-Pop! 


I love this picture of my grandfather, Art Cubbage, taken on New Year’s Eve 1959. This was probably taken at a neighbor’s house in New Providence, NJ. Art’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth Linneman Speck Merz is on the far left and I believe the other two women lived on the same street. My grandfather was born on December 31, 1912 in Swissvale, PA. Since his birthday was on New Year’s Eve, he always had a party!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year! May you find exciting new discoveries as you climb your family tree!


Fearless Females Friday – Girlfriends!

A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world. ~Lois Wyse

I am fascinated by the stories of our women ancestors, and those Fearless Females in our family trees. We think of them as mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunties … and also girlfriends.

As November comes to an end, and after the last week’s day of Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking of how grateful I am for my girlfriends. Through every season these women have shared insight, laughs, feedback and love.

I wonder if my ancestor’s girlfriends were just as important to them? They had sisters, neighbors and friends. And it certainly “takes a village to raise a child.” In very different ways than it does for me.

These women took care of their families, lost children and husbands to death and illness, had sons (and husbands) go off to war, moved across the state (or the world). I would imagine that they absolutely needed that network, and that women’s friendships were just as important to my ancestors as they are for me today.

I have always wished for a journal or diary of one of my ancestors. One that might tell me about their lives. But alas, I do not. Still, I can guess a little about their girlfriends from these pictures.

My great-grandmother, Elizabeth Linneman Speck, circa 1920. She is flanked by two friends and they appear to be dressed up for something. At the top her daughter wrote “cowgirls? or cowboys!”
Barbara Elizabeth
My 2nd great-grandmother Barbara Elizabeth Linneman. She looks so serious, but had been through a lot (I’ll post on her later); her friends had to have been important. She’s with “Mrs. Paul” a neighbor in Monessen in the 1920s.
My grandmother, Agnes Speck mugging for the camera with girlfriends, circa 1937.
My grandmother, Elise Gegenheimer Haberkern, having fun with a friend in 1961.
Irene, Agnes, Virginia August 1955
Agnes Speck Cubbage with neighbors Irene and Virginia in New Providence, 1955.
Neptune Cottage
Elizabeth Linneman Speck, with her daughter Agnes and fiends. The back of the photo has “Neptune Cottage 1939” written on it.

Treasure your girlfriends and the power of women’s friendships.

Thankful Thursday – Art’s Slide Collection

Mom, Cork, Jeff, Christmas 1953
Mom, Cork, Jeff, Christmas 1953

As we research our family, it’s important that we look at all of the records, notes, documents and photos that our family has collected. Family photos can help us identify people and put them in a time and place in our family history. These images also (quite literally!) put faces to the names that we have been researching!

A few years ago, I scanned all of my paternal grandfather’s slides, as well as those of my parents and my maternal grandparents. My grandfather, Art Cubbage, had just under 600 images that he took from 1953 (when they moved from Pittsburgh to New Jersey) through 1974.

While I am thankful for these wonderful images of my father’s childhood and my grandparent’s lives, I am most thankful that he labeled almost every slide. That’s right. Almost. Every. Slide. My grandfather noted the name of the person(s), the location (if it wasn’t at their home), the month and the year! Wow!

As I have researched my family, these slides have been a great reference for me. Even though that are 20th century images, they still help to piece together our family history. They also tell me a lot about the Cubbage family during those years, and about the individual family members, some that I will profile in later posts. There are also some images of older family members that I never met – great-grandparents and great aunts and uncles.

I have also shown and discussed many of these images with my father, as they are of his family. He has helped me to identify the connections of people in the photos with the Cubbage family (friends, neighbors, coworkers), and a few more details on the events or family members.

If you have found photos in your family research, be sure to show them to your older family members – they may have additional information, or it may jog their memories about some stories or details that you don’t know about!

I’ll share more of these images in future posts, but for now here are a few of my favorites …


July 1955
“July 1955”  This was their home in New Providence, NJ.


Mem & Pap Pittsburgh July 1954
“Mem & Pap Pittsburgh July 1954” My grandmother Agnes’ parents in their backyard on Thelma Street on the North Side.


Min's August 1959
“Min’s August 1959” My grandfather Art and his family were enjoying Maryland crab at his sister Minnie’s house in Baltimore.


Jeff & Cork Thanksgiving 1954
“Jeff & Cork Thanksgiving 1954” My father and his brother, ages 13 and 10.


Harry, Janet, Barbara, Cork June 1959
“Harry, Janet, Barbara, Cork June 1959” My father and friends before the senior prom.


Thriller Thursday – Boys Rescue Pup

It’s always fun to go through my parents’ old memorabilia and newspaper clippings – you never know what you’ll find! This article was published in a northern New Jersey newspaper around 1954 or 1955 (I can’t seem to find it on any newspaper sites). My father is one of the Cubbage boys who rescued the pup! He was about 13 or 14 years old and his brother was 10 or 11 years old.

My father had never told us about the big rescue. When I asked him about it, he corrected the newspaper, which reported that the boys jumped into the river. My father told me that they had walked out onto the ice to reach the dog and fell in! The water was about waist deep, so they grabbed the dog, and all climbed out. My father then said, “See, you can’t believe everything you read, even back then!”

It’s another reminder to ask our living family about the pictures, memorabilia, and records that we find. They might have more details about the story … or in some cases, corrections!