When cards were king

YourLifeChoices’ 90-year-old columnist Peter Leith is on mission to document key aspects of Australian life that have fallen by the wayside. In his Vanishing Australia series, he pays tribute to the humble deck of playing cards.


In the days before telly, playing cards was a popular Australian pastime and very much a part of our daily lives.

Whether it was bridge or whist in the lunch room at work, Friday night poker for the boys, after-dinner canasta with the neighbours, who had come to eat with us, a whist drive to raise funds for the local kindergarten or just a before bedtime game of Old Maid, Snap! or Happy Families with the kids, playing cards was a part of our daily lives

Council and factory workers often had a dog-eared pack of cards in their lunch boxes. Many a glove box held one (or more) packs of well-used cards. A game of patience filled in time for the kids during many a long car drive.

Games even had their own pecking order. Poker was ‘gambling’, gin rummy was fairly close to the bottom of the pecking order, canasta was ‘foreign’, Whist was for ladies and gentlemen, contract bridge was a bit superior to auction bridge … and so were those who played it.

Regardless of the social pecking order of the various card games, one thing we all learnt was to make the best of the cards we had been dealt.

Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to sunday@yourlifechoices.com.au and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

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Written by Peter Leith

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