My grandma told me more than once that staying put has some real advantages. One of those advantages is long-term friendships.
Several months ago I received an e-mail from someone I knew during my teaching days at Pleasant Valley Junior High. Mike Florio said he and others I taught with were still, since 1971, having Pleasant Valley Literary Society meetings the third Wednesday of the month unless there is a home Shocker game.
Yes, the organization lives on, but it has nothing to do with literature.
"We had to call it that back then. Poker playing would have been frowned on," Truman Shinn told me with a chuckle.
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I needed to see these guys for myself, so I went to Richard Kasitz’s home in Newton. Sure enough, there were the other guys I remembered from Pleasant Valley Junior High: Florio, Paul Cook, Jim Pruett and Dave Cutting.
"We’ve lost a few members who passed on, Wayne Bender, Lindy Kelly and Bob Hollowell," Kasitz said.
They may be gone, but they’re not forgotten. The story goes that no one wanted to sit by Bender because he always spilled his pop. Hollowell hauled off and put potato chips in the pot instead of poker chips at one of his last games. And during the game I witnessed, "Lindy’s rule" kept popping up.
Members of this "literary society," which Florio says is also known as "Read ’em and Weep," say the benefits are the friendships and the camaraderie year after year and a lot of good memories. They know each other well. "We’ve been through good times and bad times, kids, weddings, grandkid stories, kids being born, graduations, ballgames, 50th wedding anniversaries, and everything you can think of," Kasitz said.
They’re pals, but that doesn’t mean the conversation is nice. "Richard talks all the time," Cutting said. When Jim Pruett was dealer, they made fun of his technique, and when it was Shinn’s turn to bet, Florio called him the "Conway Comet" because he lives in Conway Springs and takes his time. I asked who they thought the best player was. The consensus was Cutting. "That’s because he cheats," Florio said. Someone (I couldn’t keep track at all times) said he thought Cook was a good player, "but he can’t hear anything we say." "No, Paul is just lucky," Cutting said taking the opportunity to brag a bit. "I have missed only one time in all these years," he said. "Yes, but I’m the youngest in the group," was Florio’s claim to fame.
The stakes aren’t going to break the bank, but the banter is priceless. "If you lose $2, that’s a lot," Shinn said.
However, it was Jim Pruett with the quote of the night: "A real benefit of this group is I am assured of pall bearers at my funeral."
Now that’s a good reason to stay put for more than four decades.