font-family: 'Engagement', cursive;

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


We're playing Canasta!  Who's
Card games seem to have gone out of fashion with my generation, and I think that’s rather sad.  I can remember my parents and grandparents getting together to play Pinochle almost every week when I was very small.  As I was growing up, my mother, grandmother and aunt taught me to play Cribbage, Hell and, my favorite of all, Canasta.  Of course, we know that the great families in history – the Ricardos and Mertzes, the Cleavers and, I’m making an educated guess here, the Brady’s – all played cards with friends and neighbors.

On at least one Saturday each month, my mother and I would drive the forty miles to Corvallis to visit my grandmother and aunt.  The day had a predictable routine – we’d start by playing a game, perhaps Aggravation (on a board that my late grandfather, a carpenter, had made, with marbles from a huge jar filled to the top with the little glass orbs).  We’d drink Pepsi, laugh until we’d cry and then have lunch, usually a microwave pizza (Grandma wasn’t much for cooking).  The second half of the day was often spent… drinking Pepsi, playing Canasta, laughing, again, until we’d cry and then having dinner, usually at the local Sizzler.  In my mind, there are few Saturday’s that were more fun. 
Canasta Central...  Playing cards,
rule books, score sheets and
snack plates...
 Canasta has been the go to game in our family for a long time.  My mom and I would play it frequently and, on at least one occasion, it was a pleasant diversion for hours spent in a hospital waiting room.  Now, I also get to play cards with my wife and a few of my children have learned – Thomas and Theodore being two that showed a remarkable ability to learn the complicated game at very young ages.  Teddy is the one who plays most now, delighting in beating his grandma, just as I did.  He trembles visibly just before he realizes that he’s going to win!
Canasta, and its cousins, Samba and Bolivia, took America by storm in the 1950’s.  They played it on I Love Lucy, Mamie Eisenhower played it in the White House and, if they were alive, our grandparents probably had a regular date around the card table.  It wasn’t just the game that made waves, but all of the accoutrements that came with it.  There were special scoring pads, playing cards, card trays, books and even pencils just for the game.  Canasta parties were all the rage, replacing Bridge in popularity, at least for a time.
An important part of the game...  which cards to use?

Canasta was so popular,
businesses gave out books of score
sheets instead of calendars.  And check
out the special Canasta pencils!
I love playing Canasta, as well as other card games.  For kids, they provide a great opportunity to learn about counting, patterns and thinking ahead.  For adults, it’s a great opportunity for relaxation, while still keeping your mind sharp.  And, it’s a wonderful way to spend time doing something fun with people you enjoy spending time with.
Cards and drinks in place...  where are
the players?
So, if you want to try an alternative to an evening spent watching TV or playing video games, grab a couple of decks of cards, Google “Canasta”, pour yourself a nice, tall glass of Pepsi* over ice and have fun!

Don't forget some Canasta music!  We know the game
comes from Uruguay, originally, but we don't have
a Vacation in Uruguay record...  Or, you could
just put on some McGuire Sisters to get into that
1950's state of mind!
* My frequent references to Pepsi should not in any way be construed as a product placement for Pepsi…  You can substitute any cola of your choice, of course.  However, should Pepsi wish to contact me and arrange some sort of arrangement, well, I wouldn’t be too proud to accept their endorsement and any remuneration that they may wish to send my way, well


  1. I loved your blog about Canasta. My family doesn't yet know how to play it but I play at work all the time.


  2. Thanks, Joel! Glad you liked it!