First person: 40 years of camaraderie through cards

Subject (Left) Don Arnold ‘76, (Center) Craig Skweres ‘77 and (Right) Pat Bauer ‘76, play cards every Thursday night.

“People ask us, ‘After all these years, who’s winning?’ We have to admit: We’ve never kept score,” Pat Bauer (’76 LAS), right, says of the weekly card game with Don Arnold (’75 CBA), left, and Craig Skweres (’77 CBA). Photo: John Boehm

As told to David Scott 
UIC Alumni magazine

UIC grad Pat Bauer (’76 LAS) talks about his ties to college pals.

You lose track of time playing cards. My UIC buddies and I should know; we’ve been at it pretty much every Thursday night since the early 1970s.

Over time, a pick-up game after class turned into a once-a-week game at Papa Charlie’s, a local student hangout that today is the Tuscany restaurant on Taylor. A few hands of pinochle led to weekend road trips to Illinois-Wisconsin games.

Guys graduated — even moved out of state — but still found ways to make it back for cards. We’ve seen marriages, divorces, the beginning of life and its inevitable end. And the next thing you know, it’s been four decades.

It all started with a group of high school guys from the Brookfield-La Grange area getting together and teaching ourselves a wide variety of card games. Six of us ended up going to Chicago Circle campus — me, Don Arnold (’75 CBA), Wayne Chlapecka (’76 PHARM), John Larkin (’81 LAS), Craig Skweres (’77 CBA) and Tim Tichenor (’75 LAS).

I ran into Craig one day on the train my freshman year.

“The guys are getting together after class for cards,” he said. “You should join us.”

UIC didn’t have dorms back then, so it was natural to gather in Chicago Circle Center (now Student Center East). The guys would drift in when they’d finished classes for the day. Impromptu get-togethers evolved into a regular, once-a-week thing.

Once we moved the game off-campus, we’d never break up before 1 or 2 a.m., sometimes as late as 3 or 4 a.m. A couple of times, I recall going straight from a card game to an 8 a.m. class.

Road trips entered into the mix early on. Sitting around the table in Chicago Circle, someone would say, “Hey, the Badgers play Illinois at home this weekend.” Then it would be, “Who’s got a car?” “I think I can get one!” and we’d be on our way to Wisconsin.

Growing up in Illinois, the Fighting Illini was our “home team.” The Illinois-Wisconsin rivalry became our destination of choice because Wayne had left Chicago to start his pharmacy career in Madison.

It wasn’t just football and cards with us. John, Tim and I were punch card-carrying computer geeks, while the rest of the guys were just ordinary nerds.

We spent hours in the old computer center at Science and Engineering South in front of teletype terminals playing a Star Trek game that some guy in the data center had programmed onto a reel-to-reel tape and was running on the university’s mainframe system. This literally was all done on teletype.

By the time we graduated from UIC, card games had become a Thursday night event, with the game rotating from house to house. I was working as a computer specialist for [the accounting firm] Deloitte, and I got transferred to its Detroit office, but still made it to over half the games because our regional headquarters were in Chicago, and I could often find a reason to be in the Chicago office on Fridays, which allowed me to make Thursday night cards.

I’m back in the Chicago area now, and the game has pretty much settled in every Thursday night at my house. Other guys have joined or dropped out over the years. My son, Robert Hunter Bauer — he’s an MBA student — has sat in on a few hands. We’re to the point now where the new guy has been in the game 30 years and not 42 like us old timers.

Did we ever think it would last this long? Were we out to set some sort of endurance record? It’s never been formal enough for that. The game has been about camaraderie, not keeping count.

Although many years have passed, not much has changed; most of us will have made the road trip to the Wisconsin game at Illinois this past October.

People ask us, “After all these years, who’s winning?”

We have to admit: We’ve never kept score.

What’s your passion — gardening, model railroading, building dollhouses, running marathons? The UIC Alumni magazine will consider featuring you and your leisure pursuit in an upcoming “My Passion.” E-mail uicaamag@uic.edu

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