Card party equals good time for all
Entering American Legion Post 80 Friday night, there were three announcements taped to the inside front door; an upcoming gun show, a Red Cross blood drive and a cribbage tournament. All three signaled that this was a community center but also harkened back to generations that experienced the world differently than we do today.
Inside, a sea of card tables were set up from one end to the other all occupied by foursomes of card players. Along one side, a long narrow window opens into a commercial kitchen where pans of homemade desserts and trays of sandwiches stand at the ready. A jumble of winter coats fills the tables not in use.
Ina Mae Strohbeen gets right to the point. "They must be pretty low on news if they sent you to this," she joked.
Friday's card party was a fundraiser organized by members of the Women's Auxiliary for Post 80. Women typically outnumber the men.
According to Janet Knutson of Star Prairie, "It's nice to have a place where singles can go just by yourself and always find a place to make some friends and you don't have to be a couple to come."
The party is open to the public and you don't need to be a veteran to join in the fun. Two dollars at the door fetches you a seat in a game of Euchre or 500, a cup of hot coffee, a chance to win part of modest pot of change, and a meal of sandwiches and home-made desserts.
"Where else can you have so much fun for $2 and have a lunch afterwards," said Gary Nadeau of Glenwood City, who also brought three friends with him.
Shirley Sims of Osceola noted the most important aspect of the evening is friendship.
"Well this is about camaraderie," she said. "I've met so many people since I've been playing cards."
When asked if she's heard any good stories, she replies, "Oh yes, and they're all true."
As to whether all the big decisions regarding community politics get made here, Audrey Frye of New Richmond said, "We leave those outside the door. We're here to have a good time."
Card parties have been around as long as folks could add and subtract.
According to Bob Norlander, 74 and a member of Post 80, "They've been playing for as long as I can remember."
Reta Kjeseth, one of the event's organizers, said she and her late husband, Phil, a veteran of the Korean War, joined the Legion and started playing cards some 50 years ago.
After the war, "cards were our entertainment because we were poor. It's where we met our best friends," she said.
Apparently Phil and Reta's brother, Neal, often paired together against Reta and Jean, Neal's wife. Beating the boys at cards is one of Reta's fondest memories. Upon her brother's passing, Reta remarked, "We haven't played our last game of cards."
David Kloetzke said playing cards has been part of local culture for a long time.
"Before TV was coming on, that's what my parents did," he recalled. "Friday night, Saturday night, they went to aunts and uncles to play cards. Back then people wanted to get out. On the farm, there was nobody to visit."
"And there were no babysitters," added Knutson, "so the whole family came along."
As the games continued, some expressed concern for the future of card parties like this one. Cards have been a familiar activity in this generation's experience. The temptation to stay home alone on a cold winter night and play cards on the computer is a definite threat, they said.