Mahoning Valley Cribbage Club Card game is a big deal

By Sean Barron

Special to The Vindicator


If you combine one part each of camaraderie, companionship, competition and celebration, you’ll have the ingredients that make up a county cribbage club.

The first three probably seem self-explanatory, but why celebration? Because last month marked the 25th anniversary of the Mahoning Valley Cribbage Club’s inception.

“It’s a challenging game,” Dave Somerville, one of the group’s estimated 15 members, said during a recent gathering at St. James Episcopal Church, 7640 Glenwood Ave., where club members meet every other Thursday evening. “We play to win, but if you lose, so what.”

Somerville, of McDonald, joined more than three years ago and recalled having lived on a farm, where he spent many winters engrossed in the game he learned when he was 4 or 5. The two-year Army veteran watched family members play one another, then became more proficient, he explained.

The object of the popular card game is to get 121 points. Players keep score by moving pegs on an elongated rectangular board and receive points for various card combinations, with up to 31 points possible per hand, noted Bill McGuire of Poland, who, along with his wife, Berta, is an original member.

During a typical Thursday competition, participants play different partners each game, Berta McGuire explained, adding that the group’s oldest member is 97-year-old Otie Heldman of Boardman.

Not far behind Heldman is Bill Lewis, 91, who started playing when he was 11.

“Someone I knew liked to play cards and showed me,” recalled Lewis, of Youngstown, who served three years in the Army during World War II, including in the Pacific Theater.

Lewis, who was a 30-year postal employee and worked for a travel business before retiring about 10 years ago, said he joined the club roughly five years ago.

Unlike Lewis, Lynn Peppel of Cape Canaveral, Fla., didn’t play the game as a child. Instead, her husband, Clarence, taught her the rules as well as a few strategies, and over the years, the couple’s passion for cribbage was passed down to two generations of their family.

“We taught our two sons, both of whom were brought up on cards, and our grandchildren to play,” said Lynn, who also has a home in Leetonia. “The [cribbage] club is the first place we hit when we come home.”

In addition to providing opportunities to play her beloved game, the group offers plenty of fellowship and fun, Peppel added.

The Mahoning Valley Cribbage Club meets from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. every other Thursday at the church. For more information or to join, call Bill and Berta McGuire at 330-757-9503.

Membership is free, but participants are asked to make a $4 donation at each gathering to defray the cost of renting the room.

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