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Newport Beach

Volume 5, Issue 42  |  May 26, 2020

You Must Remember This: The lost art of playing cards


I was walking the dog – more accurately being towed by the dog – when I ran into Mary Porter. I managed to pull the animal to a halt, while we had a brief chat to catch up on things. I knew Mary as part of the second generation of Little Corona regulars. The first generation was married and starting families and finding out why people with little kids ended up not at the beach, but staying home where the children could splash in the little plastic pool purchased at Target. They had tried taking the kids to the beach, but the vigilance required (“Don’t eat the sand. Or the shell. Did you just put seaweed in your nose?”) was too exhausting, so there they were on a beautiful summer weekend in the backyard filling the little plastic pool. Not the second generation, however. All this was in the future for them. Without young families at this point in their lives, they could bask in the summer sun, passing the gentle hours in endless games of  Whist. Seeing Mary reminded me of all that, and also of the fact that I don’t notice people playing cards on the beach today.

In that period when I was at the beach every summer day, you surfed, came in and stretched out on the sand to get warm, then you got into a card game. Playing cards was one of the things that brought us all together. It was the way we related to our elders, all of whom seemed to be avid card players. Certainly this was true of my folks. Several days a week my mother would play eighteen holes at the Irvine Coast Country Club – walking and pulling her bag – and then go down to the ladies’ locker room and play bridge. The men did the same thing, but it wasn’t just a country club pastime. My parents would regularly have people over or go to people’s houses to play cards, and at their annual Super Bowl party there was always a table set up for the bridge players who only looked up from their cards when a roar went up from those actually watching the game.

In this environment, I of course learned to play cards. I started with the usual  Fish and Old Maid and then graduated to Casino, a good game for elementary math practice. I eventually learned Gin and Hearts and then, at my mother’s encouragement, started to play Bridge. As I soon learned, this was getting into a whole new level. The first steps were all right. I learned the rudiments of adding up my hand to determine if I could open or how I should respond if my partner did, but I never got much further. We would play a hand, and my mother would look at me, sincerely puzzled. “Didn’t you notice that . . .?” Whatever it was, I hadn’t. She knew every card that had been played. I could see her wondering why her daughter who got such good grades in school couldn’t even keep track of the aces, all four of them.

None of my friends got the Bridge bug, and I was terrible, so I soon abandoned the game and cards in general, until my grandkids came along and we started playing UNO. It’s a delightful game, and if playing cards at the beach makes a comeback, I would recommend it with one caveat: With wet hands and whatever, beach cards tend to get a little limp. There are a lot more cards in UNO than in a regular deck, and you will have to get used to dealing from a giant stack of napkins. For the country club set, this wouldn’t be a drawback, but there’s another wrinkle which might cause a problem. When you have only one card left and are on the verge of winning, you have to yell UNO! If you forget, you have to draw cards and essentially start over. Not being a member of a club, I don’t know for sure, but I imagine that at the Newport Beach Country Club with its grand new clubhouse, management might frown on rowdy shrieks of UNO! emanating from the locker room. 


Nancy Gardner, former Mayor of Newport Beach, longtime resident and daughter of Judge Robert Gardner, is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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