Sam Ratcliffe learned to play High-Low-Jack from his father when he was just eight years old. This past Thursday, some 80 years later, Sam is still playing his cards right and besting many of his opponents.
He said, after wrapping up the second week back playing in the community room at the Buttonwoods Community Center, that he employs a “cut throat” style where he baits fellow players into making certain decisions that play right into his hand.
“I look forward to these Tuesday and Thursdays every week,” he said. “It’s great to get out of the apartment, but I also have a great time.”
Sam plays with between 30 and 40 other people who partake in a High-Low-Jack card league that plays each Tuesday and Thursday at the Pilgrim Senior Center and, finally once again, the Buttonwoods center. For a while, the Thursday games also took place at the Pilgrim Senior Center due to Buttonwoods being shuttered in 2017.
However, thanks to the work of Mayor Joseph Solomon, City Councilmen Stephen McAllister and Ed Ladouceur, among many others, the center was rehabbed and saved at a fraction of the cost that was assumed when former mayor Scott Avedisian ordered the center to be closed back then.
What largely made that possible was the donation of labor from Furey Roofing Company of Warwick, who installed a brand-new roof at only the cost of materials to the city. Solomon needed to utilize some emergency funding measures to fix other needs, such as the building’s sprinkler system, but ultimately the center has reopened without significant issues.
By doing so, the city was able to move displaced municipal employees from the tax collector’s office, tax assessor’s office and city planning department from the less than ideal conditions at the former John Greene Elementary School into new, much more functional spaces.
But to those who interact with the population of card players and to the citizens who partake in the other gaming activities that happen in the community room – there was a dedicated group of mahjong players who were clacking their game pieces on Thursday afternoon – the reopening of the center means so much more.
“I am so pleased that the mayor and the city council showed up for these people,” said Patricia St. Amant, director of family, youth and human services for the city. “This is like getting back a piece of their home.”
Hope King, who along with Joan Goddard and Joyce Wawryk (pronounced, fittingly, like many residents pronounce their home city) organize the High-Low-Jack league, the reopening of Buttonwoods has been a much welcome development.
“We’ve waited a long time for this,” said King.
“How often does that happen, where a politician makes a promise and then comes through on that promise?” added Goddard. “For a lot of people, this is a social gathering. We don’t turn anyone away.”
There is still 16 weeks to go in the tournament, with top prizes of $100 for two separate groups of competitors, while each in the top five gets $15. Interested players should head down to the Buttonwoods Community Center on Thursdays or the Pilgrim Senior Center on Tuesdays and find King, Goddard or Wawryk to learn about how to get involved.
Amidst the glowing words of approval for getting the center reopened, those enjoying the community room at the center had a simple request of the city – “Clean the floors,” which they say haven’t been adequately cleaned since it reopened last month.