How many cups of coffee have been drunk by this group of friends meeting since the 1950s? The 87-and-over guys who now gather at Paducah’s G&O Drug Store posed that question at one of their morning “meetings” just the other day. Lee Warren and Ed Hough have stood the test of time and still meet once a week with others occasionally dropping by.
Hough, who is 92, remembers when Stacey’s Restaurant was the site where the guys gathered almost every weekday.
“That was in the old days. We’ve lost many of our regulars since then, but some new younger men like Larry Jarvis, Bill Metzger and Tommy Thomas (all in their 60s) sometimes join us. Bill Conyer and Jack Wilson also drop by when they are around,” Hough said.
Past members included the late Hal Brown, Lee Livingston, Mickey Romer, Les Feast, Norman Bronstein, Tom Austin, Charlie Williams, Bill’s brother, Joe Harry Metzger, and Tommy’s father, Ward Thomas, who came until he was 102.
“We never had a name for our group, but we called each other some names occasionally!” Hough laughed. “If someone took our regular table, we stood around and gave them the iceberg freeze until they moved!”
The group decided on who paid each week by chance. “Someone would write a letter (of the alphabet) on a piece of paper and we’d go around the table and each pick a letter. The winner was really the loser and had to pay for everyone’s coffee,” they remember.
Warren joined the group in 1987 when they were still meeting downtown.
“We’ve earned the right to do this or do nothing,” Warren chuckled, but these men do much more than that. “I go to the library at least once a week and find something I haven’t read. I like Lee Childs and action novels. We like to trade books,”
“I also read a lot,” Hough said. “Every day I read the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Week Magazine, and The Paducah Sun. I enjoy novels with legal themes and mysteries, too.”
Twenty-one years ago, Hough and his wife, Barbara, both former golfers, moved to a condo on the golf course. They are the parents of two daughters, Renee and Pam. Warren still plays golf. He and his wife, Dot, have lived in their Paducah home since 1964. They have three children, Randy, Brandon, and Robin.
Needless to say, these “boys” are retired, but only from their jobs.
The G&O coffee club guys may have thousands of cups under their belts, but their record cannot compete with the number of bridge hands played by a group of 87-and-over gals who still deal the cards at least once a week.
Doris Robertson, 87, Joann Longton, 87, Barbara Shelton, 88, Ruth Ann Halicks, 92, and Josephine Malone, 102, have played bridge for a grand total of 250 plus years. Ruth Ann takes the honors because she began at age 10, while Doris and Joann have each played for 70 years, beginning in college. Barbara and Josephine started later in life, but are still veterans of this favorite, mind-sharpening pastime.
“My parents, Irene and Jesse Flowers, played bridge and I learned from them,” Doris remembers. Doris actually started playing when she was a student at Paducah Community College.
“My late husband, Royce Gregory, was an expert duplicate player and I improved a lot after we married.”
Joann began playing bridge in 1942 while a student at Syracuse University and still loves the game.
“I played four times last week, but usually twice a week. Doris and I were a great duplicate team years ago.”
Barbara and her late husband founded United Home Furnishings on Third Street in Paducah and ran it for 51 years. She enjoys playing with the girls since her retirement. “I live the good life now and always play just for fun!”
“When I was 10 or 11, I learned to follow suit,” said Ruth Ann. “I used to play auction and contract bridge — both at once.”
She played while a student at the University of New Hampshire, and today is a long-time member of a bi-monthly bridge club along with Joann.
“I’ll go play most any time as long as someone comes and picks me up,” Ruth Ann added. “I gave up my car keys in February, but I still play about twice a week.”
Josephine taught English at Brazelton Junior High School for 22 years, starting in 1953 when she moved to Paducah. She also taught in her native state of Tennessee and Florida. “Mrs. Malone” retired after 42 years of teaching. “I began playing cards to be with friends. It’s much easier to find canasta players than bridge players these days,” she noted.
Bridge isn’t the only activity that keeps these girls hopping. Doris, who resides at Jackson Oaks along with Barbara and Josephine, loves to read and play bingo and bean bag baseball. “Anything to get some exercise!” she said. “When I was younger I really enjoyed bowling and golf and I’ve had two holes-in-one,” Doris added.
Speaking of golf, Joann was a four-time club champion at the Country Club of Paducah and runner-up in the Paducah Sun several times. She also has two holes-in-one to her credit. Joann serves the city of Paducah as an Ambassador and still plays golf at Paxton Park and the Country Club. “I’ve always loved sports of all kinds.”
Joann has lived in the same home for 40 years since she and her late husband, Bill, moved from New Orleans.
Ruth Ann, an avid reader, lives in a duplex after downsizing a few years ago.
“Someone at IHop gave me a book to read recently and before I was half-way finished, I realized it was a Harlequin romance!” she laughed. “I finished it just out of curiosity — you have to find out what’s out there, you know.” And by the way, she said she isn’t too old to enjoy George Clooney!
Finding time for bridge wasn’t always easy when raising children took priority. Doris, Barbara and Joann each have two, Josephine has one, and again Ruth Ann has “honors” with seven children.
Like the coffee club guys, these gals enjoy spending time with old friends, but they prefer doing it at the bridge table.