Compiled by Virginia Hale
I never learned how to play 42. My Dad [Arnold Hamilton] never looked at his dominoes. He would just bid and win…craziest thing I ever saw.
My first taste of 42 was at Abilene Christian College (ACC back then) before it became a university. This was about 1937 or 1938. My dorm room I made into a photo darkroom, and in the evenings we would gather in one of the rooms along with the sheriff who was on “campus security” and the game of 42 would start. We would play all night or at least most of it with just enough sleep to make it thru classes the next day. Once in awhile we would have a change of pace and play a little straight 4-handed dominoes, but it wouldn’t be long before we were back to 42. Today I don’t remember the sheriff’s name, but I sure remember how he could play 42 and taught us “kids” a thing or two ’bout the game.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1960, I went to work for a cable company installing CATV systems all over the United States, and at one point even was sent to Saudi Arabia to install a system at one of the Saudi Air Force Bases. During this period of time I ended up going to Long Island, New York installing such a system. While there one of the linemen working for me, during a bad weather spell, wanted to know if anybody knew how to play 42. At once I knew I had a Texan, and between he and myself we taught a few “yankees” how to play the game. They will never be as proficient as I have seen in days gone by here in the Lone Star State, but we did play in that far off land.
What fond memories the game brings back to me, and I still love to play when I have a chance. Understand I am not a good player, but I still love the game after all these years.
Gee, my father, Byron Cogdell Rhome (grandson of Daniel Cogdell), myself, my mother (Lillie Faye Schiflett Rhome), and my brother (Jerry Rhome) played dominoes by the HOURSSSSSSSSSSSS at the kitchen table in my mom’s kitchen. My father use to drive me crazy. He could add up those little white tiles so fast. He always beat us. I remember going to the “bone yard” to get my dominoes when I couldn’t play. Dad would always say, “Well, you have to go to the bone yard. Tough luck!!!” – and then he would chuckle. (We were all very competitive.) I still have his set of ivory tiles. One is missing, and one is a bit broken because our dog grabbed it when it fell on the floor and he chewed it up a bit.
My grandmother was a school teacher in the 1920’s in Eulogy [northern Bosque County near the Somervell County line]. (The school house has since burned down.) Her name was Vida Ester Cotton. She married Sam Wade and moved to the north side of Fort Worth. A child of the 50’s, my earliest childhood memories of Christmas and Thanksgiving were of my grandmother’s frame house, dinner at her large clawfoot table, sitting around on the large front porch, and my uncles whiling away the hours playing dominoes. Unfortunately when my grandparents passed away the domino games ceased. It’s been a long time since I thought about the domino games. Thanks for the memory!
Playing dominoes always occurred when I grew up. My families always “cracked out” the dominoes as soon as there were four people in a room.
My grandmother, the first Virginia Hale, raised me. She was born in 1897 and was a very frugal person. If we wanted anything special we saved S&H green stamps from our local Piggly Wiggly grocery store. I remember she saved green stamps for a long time to get a new domino table. Another time she saved green stamps for a new set of dominoes. She was real proud of both. I got to share in her pride because I licked all the green stamps into the many books.
We lived in Mineral Wells in adjacent Palo Pinto County. It didn’t matter if we went to “the country” – the Lipan area of Hood County – or “the country” came to visit us, the domino games were intense.
I started learning how to play dominoes at age five. I would stand beside one player and watch. No one could say anything unrelated to the game until someone shouted, “DOMINO!” or “42!” Then everyone would whoop and holler. Then I would ask my questions, like “Why did you play this?”
Eventually I was allowed to become a scorekeeper. I took this job very seriously. I guess I learned to play dominoes by osmosis.
When I was about seven years old, I asked my grandmother and aunts to please let me play a foursome of dominoes with them. They graciously allowed me a seat. They were amazed that I was as good as they were at playing.
They bragged on me to the whole family. I was in with the “old timers” then. The old timers did not age discriminate. You were either a good player or you didn’t get to play.
I hated 42. The problem was that I was small then. My hands were little. For some darn reason they thought when you played 42 you had to hold ALL the dominoes in one hand and play with the other hand. I tried to explain to the old timers that this was a physical impossibility for me. It was explained to me that this was not acceptable 42 game protocol. It didn’t matter if I was good enough. My hands had to be big enough, too.
In the late 1950’s my step-grandfather, who was blind, somehow managed to take a daily walk to downtown Mineral Wells, about eight blocks straight down the street from our house. He then crossed the street at one traffic light to meet his retired co-workers and friends from the train station. The men would sit outside on benches at a domino hall that was inside the Busy Bee Cafe at the corner of Oak and S.W. 1st Street – at the corner where the present-day police station parking lot is. Sometimes I would walk with him just to keep him company and to listen to his friends tell their stories. I can still hear the dominoes slappin’ on the tables inside the hall.
We often met relatives at their homes in the Lipan area. One uncle, Hub Taylor, lived in Lipan proper. My aunt, Pearl Hale Campbell, lived smack-dab in downtown Lipan. My uncle, Joe Taylor, lived about one mile east of the Lipan city limit sign. Other relatives lived out in “the country” – mostly in Natty Flat, between Lipan and Santo.
When the dominoes were “cracked out” usually the old timers, including the women, would dip snuff. When I would ask why they would ‘play & dip’ the typical response was, “It feels good – like the old days.”
How nice that a game could bridge family differences and make you feel good – like the old days.
I so enjoyed the “Dominoe Days” stories. Mentioned was a Busy Bee Cafe, and I think there was a Busy Bee Cafe in every small Texas town at one time.
My Mom, Eula B. Phillips (Hightower) was tagged with the nickname of “Busy B.” since a child, as she was always busy – busy trying to get chores finished so she could play dominoes. All my life I remember how she would drop whatever she was doing if someone suggested a game. Oddly, I cannot remember my Dad playing. Mom was raised in Bell County, and she said you could walk down any neighborhood street any evening and every second house you could hear dominoes sliding around on the tables. Mom said this was the favorite evening entertainment in her family.
Mom started slipping away from us about seven years ago – Alzheimers. She passed last October , but for the last four years of her life, she could remember almost nothing of the past thirty years, hardly knew we daughters, but remembered ALL of her childhood, and was as skilled at dominoes in her last days as she was in her early days. She could not remember how to dress, eat, walk or write, but we could not beat her at dominoes, even in her last days of life.
Thanks for the wonderful memories of my early years with Mom.
When I was a kid my parents often had people over to play 42. One night my sister and her husband came. When dad excused himself for a few minutes they all plotted to pick their hands as a joke on him. Each one got a near perfect hand. When dad returned, he picked up the remaining dominoes, had last bid and raised. He had a near perfect low (nelo) hand, made his bid, and never stopped laughing about it.
Another time he bid, and his only trump was the six-four. He made the bid and had another big laugh. Later after I retired we joined a retiree 42 group. One night I bid with six-four for my only trump and couldn’t believe it when I made the bid, or I should say when my partner made the bid.
I grew up playing dominoes with my grandparents both of whom were born in Iredell in Bosque County. My grandfather was ruthless and never “let” me win. I attribute that experience for my expertise in math.
My parents played 42 monthly with a group of teachers here in Arlington for almost 40 years. I have never “caught on to” that game.
While living in Cresson, perhaps when I was about 11 or 12, my Uncle Willie Masterson began to teach me how to play 42. There were several couples that would get together at their house at night to play 42.
I have lots of good memories of people getting together at Earl Porter’s house to play dominoes or 42. Mostly 42. Earl was a county commissioner at this time and we would gather in their home and have home made ice cream. This was the kind that you had to turn by hand, with some covers over the top and someone sit on top to keep the freezer from moving. By the time it was made, we had built up a good appetite for it.
My uncle often recruited me to play because of needing another player, whether I wanted to or not. Sometimes I would rather have been out playing. But back then it was an honor to be asked to play with the adults. Also you didn’t ever tell your elders “no.” This getting together brought a closeness of friends and families. This present generation could learn a lot from the former generation. We did not have the entertainment that is offered to adults today, which has brought more distance among neighbors instead of a closeness and caring for one another. No wonder that the scripture says, to love the Lord, thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself. On these two hang all the laws and the commandments. This was put to practice in those days in the small towns and communities. Children grew up in this atmosphere, and it gave them a feeling of worth and pride for their communities.
I also have memories of the Busy Bee Cafe in Mineral Wells. I went there to eat as they had some of the best home cooked meals. But then in later years around 1957, my father, Ira Masterson, would have me drop him off there as I went to work and then pick him up in the afternoon when I started home. He was no longer able to work and lived with us for awhile. He enjoyed being with all his friends, there on the benches outside of the cafe. We look back now and see the care and love that the business people had for these retired men and gave them a place to congregate. Today senior centers have been formed in all the cities to give the seniors a place to socialize with others, which is GOOD. And dominoes is still the main game.
My wife’s mother’s family are German. Many of them live in the Waco and West area. My wife’s grandfather was a ferocious “straight dominoes” player. He had a saying, “If you can’t count, cut! If you can’t cut, quit!” (You’d better be on your toes, if you were his partner.) When kin folks gathered, dominoes happened. Sometimes several tables at a time.
My mother’s family loved “42.” I learned this game as a 9 or 10 year old child when we visited Mom’s family in the Houston area.
Years later I worked the second shift for Bell Helicopter Co. in the ’60’s and ’70’s. Every night during a 30-minute lunch break, there were at least two games of 42 going on simultaneously. We played so fast that many a night saw six or seven games in a 30-minute break, and food was actually consumed in the midst of the bidding and bragging.
Good memories. I hope our children and grandchildren learn some of these experiences that don’t depend on software!
As a boy growing up in Hico, Texas I remember playing moon on the weekends until 1:00 in the morning. My cousin Don Harrod (who was older and meaner than me) used to “shoot blind.” That is where you shuffle the dominoes, pick your seven, and “shoot the moon” without even looking at what you had drawn.
He almost always got set trying to do that, but he would do it a couple of times a night anyway. I also used to go down to the domino hall downtown and watch the old men play 42 or moon. The table they played on was really just a big chalkboard (so they could keep score on it). They used to play for 50 cents a hickey, which was a set. If I was lucky somebody would let me sit a hand while he made a trip to the john.
My daddy was from Oklahoma, my momma from Arkansas. I did not learn to play 42 until I was in my 20’s. We knew straight dominoes, and a lot of card games, but it was not until I was working warehouse and watching the guys at lunch that I learned 42. I observed, and asked questions, and one day lucked out when someone was out sick, and was able to sit in on a game. The dude out sick was ousted – I was a better player, even though I was a newbie.
Shortly after that I found out my betrothed came from a family of 42 players, and I was quickly upgraded from the kiddie table at Thanksgiving to the real players by virtue of knowing the subtle aspects of the game.
I was born in Texas and now live in Arlington. I have enjoyed 42 for two decades. Our daughter is 9 and can kick butt and take names in the game. *I* won’t be her partner! Grin!