Thursday, October 15, 2015

Whist Drive at the Fishing Club (1887)

Dawn Potter

Whist is a partnership game for four players, two against two.

Member of Congress
Owns a mining explosives supply company
Bank president
Developer of porcelain-insulated spark plugs

At the clubs and in the family circle it still finds a following.

Chief counsel for iron company
Lumber dealer
Involved with real estate

Were it not for the variety known as “Progressive Whist,” the organizing secretaries of charities might find it difficult to raise such ample funds.

Art patron
Manufacturer of steel springs for railroad cars
Established in the cracker business

As might well be expected in the case of a game with a long and honored life, the rules are many, and precise.

Attorney general
Owner of Banner Baking Powder
Window-glass millionaire

It is a universally established truth that trumps should be led when five or more are held, and none but the most expert player should ever depart from this.

Tunnel contractor
Minister plenipotentiary to Turkey
Federal judge
Brother of man who will murder Stanford White

Make sure of winning at the earliest opportunity, but take any risk if that is the only way of saving the game.

[from Chestnut Ridge, a verse-history of southwestern Pennsylvania]


The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club was an elite group of Pittsburgh-area financiers, industrialists, government officials, and the like. Members owned a retreat on Lake Connemaugh as well as the poorly maintained dam that kept the lake in place. On May 31, 1889, after days of heavy rain, the dam broke, and 20 tons of lake water poured downstream and into the city of Johnstown. More than two thousand people were killed. At the time, it was called the worst disaster in American history.

Chestnut Ridge features several poems that mention the Johnstown flood. "Whist Drive at the Fishing Club" features the men who controlled the destiny of the region but could not be bothered to avert tragedy.


Ruth said...

The construction of this poem is beautiful! It accentuates the stark raeality of the situation.

Ruth said...

I CAN spell, but apparently can not see!!!