TEXARKANA’S “BUNCO BABES” ARE GRATEFUL FOR THE FUN AND FRIENDSHIP THEY HAVE EXPERIENCED FOR OVER 30 YEARS
by JULIANNA BOWEN
New endeavors are often a roll of the dice, but for a group of Texarkana women one certain idea wasn’t just a success, but the start of a friendship that would last for decades. The idea was Bunco, a social dice rolling game now played by millions across the United States. But for this group of ladies, it was a unique idea, just beginning to popularize.
Although a common parlor game in the nineteenth century, Bunco did not emerge as a family activity until the 1980s when the beloved dice game rolled into living rooms all across America.
Becky Blake, one of the group’s founding members,
moved to Texarkana in 1981 from Hillsboro where she played in a local Bunco group. After meeting Kathi Couch through her Realtor, the two decided to host a Bunco game night so Becky could meet some other local women. Kathi called 10 of her friends who gathered at Becky’s new house, and the first of many Bunco nights took place. Kathi recalled, “Becky asked me to gather some friends so I got Lois, Stephanie, and Char because we had been going to the movies on Thursday nights and it was getting old. We loved playing games so it was a perfect fit.” The game night was such a hit that the ladies are still playing today. Five of the original women are still in the group, and five others have been with the group for over 25 years.
Longtime member, Julia Carpenter, explained how this group of friends is more like family, “Our group has changed over the years. We have had members that
moved on, but no matter what, our core has continued to be the same. We are family. When someone hurts, we all hurt. When someone has a special occasion, we all share their joy.” Undoubtedly, this group of long-lasting friends is centered around so much more than a game. Becky Blake described it by saying, “It’s hard to explain how much our friendship has meant over the years. We have shared in both the good times and hard times.” Together the group has supported each other through various trials and losses through prayer and companionship. Becky Blake said, “You can bet, if there is a need, you can count on the Bunco buddies to be there. Most importantly, there have been many prayers for each other— LOTS of prayers.”
Together the group has shared one another’s happy times, as well. Beyond the monthly Bunco nights, the friends have shared their lives and families with each other. Julia Carpenter’s daughter, Sarah Carpenter, said, “Growing up around my mom’s Bunco group was always a joy. It’s been neat to see how they’ve remained close throughout the years. They raised all of their children together, and now they celebrate grandbabies together!” The group has collectively given every one of their children a graduation party from high school – plus debutante parties, engagement celebrations, and wedding and baby showers. Chase Magness, daughter of founding member Char Crane, said, “I’ve been blessed by this amazing group of women as far back as I can remember! As kids we camped at the Cossatot, celebrated birthdays together, and played ‘tree ball’ in our backyards. Then later I enjoyed graduation parties and wedding and baby showers. These ladies never missed a thing. I’m very grateful for each one of them and the part they’ve played in my life and my mom’s.”
In addition to sharing in the joy of each other’s children and grandchildren, the Bunco husbands have developed their own long-lasting friendships and traditions. They go hunting together and regularly get together on their own. They have even attended an annual Squirrel Camp together for decades.
The ladies don’t join the men on their hunting trips, but they have enjoyed many travels of their own. They have taken retreats to local lake and river homes and an annual getaway to the Oaklawn horse races in Hot Springs. For their 25th anniversary, the women celebrated their friendship seaside at a vacation home in Pebble Beach, California. Most affectionately recalled was the annual Christmastime trip to Julia Carpenter’s Antebellum family home in Marshall. Each year, the ladies picked out a live tree, tied it to the top of the car, and carried it back to the house to garnish together. They shopped, decorated, sang Christmas carols, and of course, played Bunco.
As much as they enjoy traveling, the heart of their friendship has blossomed within the warmth of each other’s homes. During their monthly game nights, the ladies enjoy appetizers and drinks while catching up with one another. Lisa Looney shared there is
always “good company, good cooks, and everyone is genuinely happy to see everyone else.” Originally the hostesses prepared dips or simple appetizers
to share, but as the years have passed the meals have become more
elaborate. Each month they celebrate birthdays, enjoying a special dessert and gifting cards.
Some nights they spread out among tables and play as many rounds of Bunco as they can, while other nights they find themselves caught up in conversation and simply roll the dice to determine who will take home the night’s prizes. “Amazingly, after all these years, and lots of prizes, we still get things we love and can use. When we first started playing Bunco, we brought $5 each to play. We now play for $20. We figured if that was our monthly entertainment, we could go to $20!” Becky Blake laughingly explained.
Although the prizes are good, the ladies all agree that the real prize is the friendship they’ve established and the cherished memories they have made along the way.