Card-playing ladies a LaPlace tradition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 2, 1999

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / June 2, 1999

LAPLACE – The group of ladies are good friends and have been for a long time. Don’t call them “old” friends, though.”We look better now than we did then!” laughs one.

It’s an institution in the LaPlace community. It’s not one as visible asAirline Motors Inn or as widely known as the Andouille Festival, but since Jan. 26, 1955, a group of ladies have convened for one purpose – fun.The completely informal gatherings are centered around chatting with each other, non-stop. They use their card game as a convenient excuse forthe visits.

Recently, eight of the current 10 members gathered at Jewell Arcuri’s home. Present were Betty Lou Guidry, Wanda Ollar, Myrtle Aucoin, EnidBoe, Juliette Maquar, Betsy Arcuri and Mitzi Schexnayder. Absent wereMargie St. Martin and Delphine Flynn. Two other players are now holding atable for them in heaven, Cecile Cambre and Lillian “Cookie” St. Martin.The ladies play “Michigan,” a card game deceptive in its simplicity, involving one deck of cards, five glass tumblers, four assorted face cards and an ace from another deck and a whole lot of pennies.

Each member arrives with a dollar’s worth of pennies with which to gamble.

The game’s site rotates among the membership, and husbands are not particularly welcome. This is, after all, ladies’ night.Once, a husband (who shall remain nameless here) secretly tape-recorded a meeting to see just what was discussed. Though they didn’t discover itat the time, all he could make out was a lot of laughter. Hours of laughter.”It’s just to get out of the house every other Wednesday,” said Betsy, smiling.

The card game action is fast-paced. Each takes a turn dealing, including adummy hand. They match suits and slap down cards in a whirlwind. Whenone hits a match for a card beneath a tumbler, the pennies anted up are immediately given to the winner, sorted out with a blackjack dealer’s swiftness by Myrtle and Betty Ann.

“When you’re playing with pennies, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes,” Betty Ann said.

Somehow, by the end of the evening, the center tumbler is filled with pennies, sometimes as much as eight or nine dollars. The play is takenseriously, and some women have different ways of managing their stacks of “stakes.” Betsy maintains little stacks of five cents each. Others keeplong, neat rows.

“We just don’t see kids playing cards anymore,” mused Enid.

At the group’s second-ever game, the fun and hilarity continued to 1 a.m.before anyone noticed the time. Now, the game starts promptly at 7:30p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. when they play for the “big pot.””That’s when it gets interesting!” said a beaming Jewell, who soon followed up the game by serving dessert – her homemade ice cream.

“We used to serve nuts and candy during the game, but we finally stopped because we were putting on too much weight!” she added, laughing.

The group discusses family developments, gossips about the community and has even partied together in the Blue Room at the old Roosevelt Hotel, back when their husbands were still light on their feet.

However, though there’s now a little silver in their hair, gained in the last 43 years, the light in their hearts is undimmed.

“Nobody has any more fun for a dollar than we do,” Wanda said grinning.

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