A winter storm caused the streets to be slick with ice and slush, but that didn’t stop six Gardner couples from coming together and celebrating their 25th anniversary of Bunco nights Feb. 20.
Bunco is a game played with 12 people, three tables, and dice. The goal is to get 21 points or actually get a “Bunco,” which is when a player yells out “Bunco!” Immediately afterward, the players switch tables and seats, then proceed by beginning the next round. Whoever has the most points, or the most “Buncos” by the end of all the rounds wins the game.
The six couples who meet one Saturday night a month are Phil and Judy Lenahan, Claude and Kay Steed, John and Mary Jo Andrews, “Bunko Bob” and Cathy Weber, Rusty and Vivian Shadoin, and Eldon and Debbie Elkinton.
“We have figured out that there are 22 children and 29 grandchildren among all of us,” Kay Steed said.
Their 25-year Bunco night tradition started when four of the couples had boys in junior high school together. “Now those same children are 35 and 36 years old and have children of their own,” Judy Lenahan said.
Each of the six couples hosts the Saturday night Bunco meeting two months out of each year or twice a year. Over the last 25 years the Shadoins have moved numerous times.
One game night, two of the couples went to the wrong house and proceeded to “knock on those poor strangers’ door asking if we had the right house for Bunco,” chuckled John Andrews. He continued, “We finally figured out to look in the windows for the Shadoin’s baby grand piano, then we know we have the right house when they tell us they’ve moved again.”
When a couple can’t make it to a Bunco night, two of the couple’s children substitute for them. “We have experienced lots of graduations, weddings, birthdays and funerals together,” Kay Steed said.
One of the original couples was Tom and Raylene Richards. This Saturday night was bittersweet because the group had just found out that Tom passed away only two days prior from health complications.
Some other Gardner couples that have been involved over the last 25 years with the Bunco group are Mike and Joyce O’Connor, and Jim and Devra Pointers.
Years ago, instead of playing Bunco, they decided to go on a scavenger hunt, which led teams to Edgerton, Olathe and all around Gardner. The losing team had to cook or buy breakfast the next morning. The children refereed the game by giving clues over the telephone and staying at the home base throughout the night.
“We thought one of the clues was underneath the Spoon Creek overpass on I-35, and when a State Trooper stopped and wondered what a group of grown men were doing alongside the highway in the middle of the night with flash lights, it took some convincing that we were actually on a scavenger hunt,”
Claude Steed said as the group laughed and remembered the occurrence.
“Sometimes we’ll have themed Bunco nights, like St. Patrick’s Day, or Valentine’s Day, and during the last summer Olympics I got everyone swimming caps and goggles to wear while we played,” Judy Lenahan said.
“Bunco Bob” and his wife Cathy Weber are the youngest couple, and have only been playing with the group for ten years. As the group discussed individual strategies and nicknames, it was explained that “Bunco Bob” received his nickname, “because I never actually win Bunco,” he said.
Judy Lenahan shared, “You have to watch Eldon (Shadoin), because he’s like a silent killer. He rolls high without anybody noticing for awhile.”
The Bunco group members have remained very close over the last twenty-five years. Two of them have battled cancer, including John Andrews and Vivian Shadoin. “They’ve been by my side though it all,” Vivian Shadoin said.
As far as politics go, national and locally, the group has “agreed to disagree.”
“Six of us, the Steeds, the Lenahans, and Debbie and I, all attended Gardner High School together,” Eldon Elkinton said.
As tradition for the last 25 years, the group has used the same bell to start each Bunco round. Also, they always have ’60s rock’n roll music humming in the background as the dice are heard smacking the table, just to be scooped quickly back up for the next roll.
To celebrate their 25th year, they enjoyed a dinner of Jack Stack BBQ before the game began, and afterwards “probably around 10 p.m., we’ll cut and serve the cake,” which Judy Lenahan had made special for the celebration.