Members of “The Board”Published 5:53pm Thursday, September 12, 2013
Charles Meeks, retired Troy City Council member, makes it very clear that playing “The Board” is not gambling. “It’s a game of chance.”
Meeks, laughingly, admits to having played this game of chance almost religiously for 50 years. Meeks is in good company.
Historically, many — maybe most — of the distinguished and respected male members of the Troy population have played “The Board.”
Doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs and even a “thief” have figured into this “game of chance.”
Meeks, a member of the Synco Drugs Coffee Club that meets weekday mornings at 8 a.m., said “Board” play originated at Green’s Drug Store in 1947.
“This board was played at Green’s Drugs and City Drugs and has been on loan to Synco Drugs since Gam Green retired,” Meeks said.
Charles Synco, pharmacist at Synco Drugs, said The Board is on loan from the Green family and, as long as the family agrees to let it live at Synco Drugs, he’s willing to house it and also willing to let games of chance be played at his establishment. However, Synco said he does not participate in the “games of chance.”
“He’s too busy dealing drugs,” Larry Meeks said, laughing.
The Board has a storied history in Troy and around the county.
“The Board was built by Perry Young and he made the ‘board’ from monkey pod wood,” Larry Meeks said. “I think that he built several boards. There was one at Mary’s Restaurant and one at the Riverside Café and there could be others around somewhere.”
The purpose of The Board was to provide entertainment for men’s unorganized coffee clubs that met in the early morning hours at local drug stores and restaurants.
Of course, the main purpose of the coffee clubs was to catch up on the news of the day. The men, then and now, talked weather, politics, baseball, football and the price of tea in China.
When all of the world’s problems had been addressed and solved, the men of the coffee clubs would turn all their attention to “The Board.”
The Board has a round concave base with small holes, the size of a ball bearing, placed strategically around it.
“Each hole is assigned a number value 5, 30, 50, 75 and 100,” Charles Meeks said. “There are four holes with a value of 100, one on each side. The highest score you can get is 400.”
The object of the game is to drop the four ball bearings – one at a time or all at one time — into the spiral tube that Young made from a coat hanger.
The balls shoot out and make their way to a hole and settle in.
“You total up the points and the one with the lowest score buys the coffee,” said Mike Gillory, whose four bearings rolled their way into the nickel holes. “Looks like I’ll pay today.”
If there’s skill involved in playing The Board, the Coffee Club members aren’t skilled.
It’s just the luck of the roll, they said.
However, Ronnie Baker might beg to differ. He holds the club record of 375, and Baker said, with a little luck, he would have had a perfect roll of 400.
“But 375 is going to be hard to beat,” he said.
Charles Meeks said he’s been low man far too many times.
“It’s probably cost me $1.4 million dollars,” he said, laughing.
But it all goes to a good cause. And, maybe that “cause” is because Charles Synco doesn’t want to be jailed for running a “game of chance” in his drug store.
Anyway, when the loser pays up, the money is dropped in a jar and Synco donates it to the annual Pike County Relay for Life campaign.
“All the money from the “board” goes to charity,” Charles Meeks said.
Well, almost all.
That’s the reason, that “thief” had to be figured into the “game of chance.”
“We used to put all of the ‘coffee’ money in a jar over on the counter,” Larry Meeks said. “Then, when the time came, Charles (Synco) would donate it all to Relay.”
Sadly, Meeks said someone came in the drug store and took the money — jar and all.
“Not once but twice,” he said. “Now, the money is put up for safe keeping.”
The Coffee Club that meets each weekday morning at Synco Drugs is carrying on a tradition that began nearly 70 year ago.
Just how long it will continue, the club members are sure – but probably as long as old men sit and talk about the weather.
Larry Meeks, laughingly, said the weather “ and anything else we don’t know about.”