Someone had a birthday this weekend! Happy Birthday to my Dad. This is a picture from Corky’s 4th birthday party! Corky is boy on the left sitting in the front, sort of looking around another boy. His brother Jeff is being held by an unknown woman.
Corky’s father was still in Norfolk in the Navy at this time, so he and his brother Jeff, and his mother (Agnes Speck Cubbage) were living on Thelma Street on Pittsburgh’s North Side with Agnes’ mother (Elizabeth Linneman Speck Merz).
The photos were not labeled, so I wasn’t sure of Corky’s age or the year. I was able to zoom in on this picture and count the candles … four!! The birthday party was in the backyard of Elizabeth’s house and probably included other children from the neighborhood.
I love this picture of Agnes looking up while she cuts the birthday cake, surrounded by all of the kids.
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! 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!
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.
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.
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!