The Table Cloth, Sunday Picnics, and Penny Ante

Who knows where Flossie came up with the idea? I think her siblings teased her about it at first, but then came to treasure the table cloth just as much as Flossie did.

After World War II, family picnics became the summer Sunday tradition for the Keck family. These picnics continued until the family became too scattered to attend, probably in the late 1970s or ’80s.

Floss and Harry Kradel’s home was the perfect spot for these summer picnics. They lived way back in the most rural part of Butler County. All the roads to their house were unpaved for at least a mile in all directions. There were no neighbors and Grandpa Keck owned the land around their property.

They had built a brick fireplace with a grill at the edge of the back yard and they were the only members of the family to have such a luxury.

On Sunday afternoons the family would bring potluck dishes and gather in that yard. The children would play on the swings, take walks and come up with other amusements. The adults might play horseshoes, walk up the hill behind the house or, most of the time, just sit and rest in the shade. Hot dogs and hamburgers were grilled on the brick fireplace to add to the dishes that family members had brought.

Flossie set a long table to act as buffet and dining table. At some point in the early 50s she decided to have everyone who came to her picnics sign their name on a yellow table cloth. After each picnic, she would embroider the inked names to preserve them. People who came for the picnics would take time to look over the table cloth to see who had been there before them. Over the years the table cloth became a family history as signers died, and children grew up to laugh at their early childish signatures.

That table cloth represented the fun of family during a time when most of us still lived in the area. The idea of it brings back memories of warm summer Sundays when people went to church and rested for one day of the week.

At the picnics, later in the evenings, the older family members sat around the dining room table and played Penny Ante. The stakes were not big, hence the game’s name, but the game was a serious challenge in a competitive family. The card games continued even after the picnics ended. Joanne, Ken, Phyllis and Flossie played until Ken’s death. One evening when I was visiting they invited my husband and I to join them. Ken thought, because my parents would never allow us to play or be around gambling, that I would not be able to play well. Much to his surprise, I won the pot. He hadn’t realized how many years had passed since I left home and what I had learned during those years. Until his death he would put notes on my holiday cards asking when I would come back to play again so he could win his money back. He went to far as to torment me about how mean it was to take money from an “old man”.

One thought on “The Table Cloth, Sunday Picnics, and Penny Ante

  1. Until I looked up the spelling of the game the other day, I always thought the card game was called “Penny-Annie”. It seems that was the way everyone pronounced it!

    Everyone remembers that after the eating and then the dishes were done, the Aunts and Uncles pulled out their socks – the ones they carried their pennies in! – for the Penny Ante game.

    Funny that you mention the competitiveness of the family when playing this game. My friends have accused me of being no fun to play games with because I’m so competitive! Now I know where it comes from – and I guess it’s only fun if everyone is out to win :)

    The kids would then get ice cream, or we would roast marshmallows on a stick over what was left of the BBQ fire. Then we would all sit in a crowd in front of the TV together and watch The Wonderful World of Disney. Sometimes though, after dark we would race around the yard with jars with holes poked in the lids to catch fireflies.

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