A visit from my Great-uncle Val was always an exotic treat. He lived in far away places like Djakarta, Indonesia and Lahore, West Pakistan, places he was assigned as an executive of the Bata Shoe Company of Czechoslovakia (Today the Czech Republic).
Valerian Samek was my grandfather’s youngest brother. About 24 years separated the two brothers in age. By a strange coincidence, Val was the same age as my father, Edward Sameck.
The visits were usually unannounced causing great commotion within the family as all the visiting and feasting was planned. Visits usually coincided with political upheavals in the countries in which my uncle was working. One visit occurred shortly after he and his wife fled Pakistan for the safety of Indonesia. A few years after this visit, my uncle again appeared after he and his wife fled Djakarta for Sydney, Australia where he would finally settle down and become a citizen of Australia.
A typical visit consisted of a family gathering of wedding or funeral proportions in that the party encompassed all the relatives in the area of both my grandfather and grandmother. The party was often at my father’s brother, Richard’s place since he had a large ranch house and lot in Allen Park, Michigan.
The gathering usually began shortly before noon with everyone assembling for horseshoes, pool, and gossip before a 2 PM dinner. Dinner had to be early or there would not have been enough time for poker afterwards. Turkey, ham, and all the trimmings were served in the basement with adults and children being separated for the duration of the meal. Immediately after dinner, the men would adjourn to the lawn to smoke and chat while the women cleaned the kitchen and dining areas. As children, we were usually free to amuse ourselves as long as not too much hell was raised.
At the conclusion of this after dinner hiatus, everyone 10 or older gathered around the table to play poker, $2 poverty poker that is. You started with $2 in change. If you lost all of that, you played for free until you won enough to bet again. The games were imaginative with the more wild cards the better. They went by names of Dime Store (5s and 10s wild with a free card on a deuce), Baseball (3s and 9s wild with a free card on a 4), Spit in the Ocean, and my favorite, “Deuces and Jacks and the Man with the Axe and a pair of natural 7s takes the pot”. Poker usually went on until 8 or 9 in the evening.
After the long day, we all headed for our homes around the Detroit area until the next time Uncle Val came to town.