Does Anyone Play Pinochle Anymore?


My father was a blue-collar guy. He went to work in a factory at the age of 14.  A lunch-pailer who never missed a day until he retired at 65.  Most of those years he printed wallpaper for Inland and Desoto on south Kedzie Avenue. He was one of the best at the trade.  So good that he set the patterns for the other guys, probably saving their jobs for doing it. He didn't have the benefits of a good education. That was left for us, his six kids. He put in a hard day's work. And lived a simple life.

He had his diversions. The White Sox was one of his passions. He raised pigeons. When he came home from work each day at three in the afternoon, the first thing he did was to feed  the pigeons. This consisted of going into the garage, climbing up a long ladder, opening the back of the coop, and filling  the feedboxes.  The pigeon coop seemed to be permanently stratified  with droppings. And it was beetle-infested.

My father also was an accomplished pinochle player.  Pinochle is a card game that can be played in two ways: cut-throat (aka auction) or partners. Cut-throat is every man for himself.  Partners in pinochle-speak is "Pay attention. Help me make  the bid. Or we've got to set 'em."

When you played pinochle with my father,  you played in  the Chicago Symphony. So you had to make sure your violin was in tune, and your performance flawless.   He demanded perfection, and any discordant notes would be berated. And if you failed to meet his standard of excellence, you would be banished from the stage.  He was a virtuoso at the game. Imperious and intolerant of error. His teaching method was harsh, but very effective. I learned how to play pinochle. Not nearly as well as he. And I  have never forgotten.

No matter how adept one is at any game, there's no accounting for luck. We used to play in the Chicago Park District tournaments. It was 3-person cut-throat.  We expected our dad to do well. And he did, winning a third-place . He was honored with a trophy of modest size and with  a prize he picked from an assorted selection.   He did it with skill. It must have been one of his proudest and happiest moments.  But a few years later, I caught every run, 100 aces, and double pinochle.  Took first place. My trophy was two-feet high.

My dad never forgave me.



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Tags: pinochle

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