Baldwin City Recreation Commission’s regular pinochle games more about camaraderie than cards

photo by: Elvyn Jones

Pinochle players at the Baldwin City Recreation Commission's downtown office share one of their frequent laughs on a recent Monday. Clockwise from back left, the players are Duane McIntire, Karen Goyette, Ralph Rippetoe and Loretta Robson.

On a recent Monday, Loretta Robson played a winning card with gleeful satisfaction early in a marathon pinochle game in the downtown office of the Baldwin City Recreation Commission.

“I had just one heart,” she said as she swept up the cards from the middle of the table. “I didn’t think it would get back to me.”

About noon, a number of hot hands had put her and partner Karen Goyette out in front of their opponents, but Robson wasn’t about to disrespect foes Duane McIntire and Ralph Rippetoe.

“These guys are good,” Robson said. “They take chances.”

The banter and competition around the pinochle table beat playing solitaire at home, McIntire said. It was also too hot that day to get out in the garden, an activity that competes with cards for the retired high school science teacher’s daylight leisure time.

There are days he and his partner, Rippetoe, play cards until 5 p.m., switching to cribbage when most of the players leave, McIntire said. On this day, he was trying to convince Rippetoe, a retired engineer who lives 5 miles east of Baldwin City, to join him in pool games at a local establishment after the day’s pinochle wrapped up about 3 p.m.

“I’ve got to get him to go,” he said. “He’s a good pool player, too.”

Goyette said it was that kind of camaraderie more than the cards that brought her to the table.

“It’s just good company,” she said. “We have a lot of fun. They have lots of patience. I could be home watching TV, but this is more fun. Debbie takes good care of us.”

Debbie would be Debra McCullough, administrative assistant and programming director for seniors at the Baldwin City Recreation Commission. She makes sure there’s coffee and cookies for the card players daily and also schedules other events to get the community’s seniors out and about while enjoying one another’s company.

Monday and Friday are pinochle days at the BCRC office. Other days are devoted to pitch, dominoes and a form of canasta called “hand and foot.” Those games can draw more players than the pinochle, filling all four of the tables in the BCRC office’s lobby, said Robson, a regular of all the games.

McCullough arranges other activities, too. Community seniors, defined as those older than 55 (McCullough doesn’t check IDs), go on once-a-month outings, including a recent well-received trip to a restaurant along Southwest Boulevard in Kansas City, Mo., as well as casino and bingo trips.

There was plenty of room in the office on that Monday, but McCullough said space considerations do constrain activities and force her to schedule senior programs in different locations around town. She had just arrived from a yoga class at the Baldwin Municipal Golf Course clubhouse.

The proposed $5 million Baldwin City community center would help with that as it would include a senior center. McCullough and several of her senior regulars made that point at the June meeting of the Baldwin school board. The BCRC board is asking the school board to approve a 2 mill levy to provide $2.5 million to build the community center. A half-cent citywide sales tax, which city voters would have to approve, would provide the other $2.5 million needed.

Such considerations weren’t on the minds of the four card players in front of McCullough’s desk. They were talking of good hands, grandchildren and a regular who wasn’t at the table, Truly Ernest Schlup. He was a very good player who kept things lively, they said.

McCullough said if Schlup didn’t make the next pinochle game, she would probably call to check in on him.

“They keep pretty good track of each other,” she said of the card players. “If they haven’t heard from somebody, I call to see if everything is OK.”