Catherine LeDuke was a world class "Game Player". To the best of my knowledge she never won any trophies but if one had been awarded for willingness, eagerness, availability, variety, or sportsmanship her case would be over flowing. And how her children and grand children became so fiercely competitive in the game playing arena is beyond me. Nothing satisfied Mother more than the look on a child's face who had just defeated her at old maids, checkers, or connect four.
"Anybody want to play Somitpqirsh? Count me in, I'll play, shuffle and deal. By the way, how do you play somitpqirsh?"
Mother grew up playing Canasta with her mother, daddy, and brother, my Uncle Bud. Her sister Mary Elizabeth was the baby of the family and I believe was less involved in the card games. They made her the "chief kibitzer" and she was good at it. When our family went to visit our Memphis grand-parents in the fifties, Cathie and I were always eager to go because it gave us a chance to play cards with the grown ups.
Richard was the baby of our family so we made him the "kibitzer". He was never very good at it so we eventually had to teach him how to shuffle and let him join us. That was a mistake because fairly quickly he was beating us. Baby's of the family should be outlawed.
In the thirties and forties Bridge was the popular card game of choice and Mother and Daddy were extremely good. There were bridge games going on all over Tiptonville and Catherine and James Neville played in many of them. Most often I recall them being down the street at Annie Lee and Taft Yates' house.
James Neville and Catherine had returned to Tiptonville permanently in 1938 and lived across the street from Ben Neville and Miss Maude until they had a house built at 114 LeDuke Street in 1939. This was built on a lot deeded to them by Grand-Ma Duke who lived on the corner where the Post Office is now. Their two story house (that is if you walked up stairs only where the steep part of the roof was) cost $17,000 and when built had only the first floor finished.
But this house was large enough for the two of them and with room to spare for Catherine Lee LeDuke who was born in in in in in ....... Well, I was born in 1943 and Cathie is slightly older than me. Cathie and I shared the second of the two downstairs bed rooms until Richard came along in 1948. At that time the second floor was declared livable if the inhabitants would just not grow above 5 feet. Cathie and I both played center on basketball teams at THS.
Three rooms and a bath were added to the upstairs that were accessed by a flight of stairs that broke every safety code in the book. Climbing those stairs was very much like climbing a ladder. When Cathie and I got older and were about to receive punishment for some wrong doing, we would run around the house until we had out maneuvered which ever parent was chasing us and shoot up the stairs. We knew that if we could make it through the upstairs door we were safe. Neither Mother nor Daddy ever attempted that flight of stairs with anger in their heart.
Life on LeDuke Street was not just about bridge games with Annie Lee and Taft. There was a lot of gaming going on in the late forties and all during the fifties. I don't remember if the "gang" that played on this street had a name or not. Corinne or Cathie might know. All I remember was that I was barely old enough to be included in the street activities of the time.
And I remember that all of us in the area could be summoned by any Mother with just a few hollers from a front porch. Miss Annie Lee lived across the street and down about two houses. She and Taft had three children roughly the same ages as the LeDuke brood. Corinne, John Taft, and Gail. Behind the Yates lived Miss Jane Donnell who also had three kids, Bob, Connie, and Sue. Around the corner on Lake Street lived Dr. Smythe's two children, Helen and Bart. Helen was too smart and sophisticated to hang out with the likes of us but Bart was a regular in our crew. Later years found Phil Wesner, Paul Moore, Jerry Cooper, and WickyHearn mixed in with this bunch.
Kick the can, tag, roly-poly, baseball, bike riding - on handle bars, lightning bugs, red light - green light, crickets, tree climbing, pea shooter wars, cowboys and indians, putting a playing card in the spokes of your bike, double dog dare. And these are just a few of the games we played. And if we ever needed a referee, any mommy in the area had complete authority over the whole crew to administer what ever justice needed to be doled out to whomever.
Ree Ree Rogers lived at the end of the street. She had a hole in her house that was made by a cannon ball; at least that's a story I remember. Wish I could remember the point of the story. I do remember having dances at Ree Ree's house in our teen years. By then most of my street crew had graduated and gone on to bigger things. Which was alright since I had graduated to teen stuff and kick the can was not on the agenda.
If Catherine LeDuke's grandchildren and great grandchildren have even one memory of her, it would be at a dining room table playing cards, clue, monopoly, jacks, shoots and ladders, checkers, scrabble, connect four, rubbicube, michigan rummy. If it was a game, deal "Bubba" in.
Catherine LeDuke remained a game player extraordinaire and only very recently was forced to turn in her play book. One of her favorite games was domino's and I can remember playing with her until just a year or so ago. Her eye sight was the main reason she had to quit. For years we found progressively larger and larger domino tiles to play with until their size out grew the playing field of our dining room table.
Today as her memory fades I am convinced that just as she can recite poems learned long ago, I know she could hold her own in a game of canasta right now if she could just see the spots clearly enough.
And if a deck of cards were required for any game she played today, only the "Hearts" would be needed.