If you’ve been a faithful reader of Eugene Weekly for the past quarter century, you might remember a 1997 ad calling on displaced Midwesterners to come together for a game of euchre. Nearly 25 years later, that same group of friends is still getting together every Monday night for some cards and a pint. But the game looks a little different over Zoom.
“That first night was like The Twilight Zone,” Paul Jasheway says. He’s the transplanted Midwesterner who placed the ad all those years ago. After playing with the group for five years, Jasheway moved to Indiana and had since lost touch with most of the euchre players. But when COVID-19 restrictions forced the group to start playing online, an old friend invited Jasheway to rejoin them — over Zoom.
For those of you scratching your heads with no idea how to pronounce “euchre,” let alone how to play it, you’re not the only one. Pronounced “YOO-ker,” it’s a classic trick-taking card game played by groups of four or six. The name “euchre” comes from an action that takes place during the game: a player is euchred when an opponent blocks him or her from winning three or more tricks after making trump.
Because the game is popular in Canada, many Midwesterners grew up playing it around the dinner table on holidays. When Jasheway spent Christmas and New Year’s alone in Eugene, he felt homesick and decided to place the ad.
A handful of people showed up to the first meeting at Sam Bond’s Garage, and the group continued to grow from there.
“It goes beyond cards,” Karen Fine says, a member of the euchre group for more than 20 years. “We’ve gotten houses on the coast together for New Year’s weekends, rafting trips, winter camping, all sorts of adventures.”
Fine is from Massachusetts, so she did not grow up playing euchre. It took her a long time to learn the ins and outs of the game, but once she did, it became a weekly part of her life.
“I’m just very social and I love games, so it was an opportunity to play with adults since I had kids at the time,” Fine says.
Pete Zani, a Midwesterner from Bridgeport, Ohio, is another longtime member of the euchre group. He lived in Oregon for seven years and now lives in Wisconsin, so these Zoom meetings have provided Zani a chance to catch up with old friends he doesn’t get to see very often.
“It’s about playing cards and friendship,” Zani says. “There are times when you’re at a Zoom meeting and you can close your eyes and imagine that things feel somewhat normal. It’s as close to normal as you can get.”
Technologies like Zoom didn’t exist when these baby boomers started playing cards 24 years ago. It took some getting used to, but once members got a feel for the euchre website they use for the game and saw familiar faces on their Zoom screens, things started to feel natural.
While Zoom is an adequate meeting place for now, the group is looking forward to meeting up in person again, with food, drinks and music to accompany their game and conversations. They’ve been brainstorming ideas about how they will safely play cards at a bar in the future.
Longtime member Drew Parrish, who organizes most of the in-person meetings, says that they might use one deck of cards for each hand and then quarantine that deck for a week or two so as not to spread germs around the table. The kinks are still being worked out, but the group is cautiously eager to get back to playing in a bar.
Monday night euchre games have been a staple in Parrish’s life for the past two and a half decades, and his social calendar was completely thrown off when the shutdown first happened.
“For the couple weeks we didn’t play, I wasn’t sure what day it was,” Parrish says. “Then once we played cards online Monday night, I woke up Tuesday knowing it was Tuesday morning.”
The euchre group is filled with people from all walks of life with a shared love for card games. Jasheway could never have guessed that his small ad in EW would form a tight-knit friend group to last throughout decades.
“I was pretty amazed they were still meeting,” Jasheway says. “I didn’t keep a whole lot of track when I moved in 2002. I had a conversation with somebody a few years after that and they were like, ‘Yeah, we’re still playing the same place, same night.’ I never dreamed in 2020 they were still doing it.”