ELLINWOOD — Since the early 1940s, the 3 Coin Club, a group of businessmen and farmers in Ellinwood has been meeting each day for coffee. Now mostly retired, they shoot the bull, tell tall tales also known as lies, and talk about sports and politics in the company of good friends every day for half an hour.
“It gives us something to do,” said Larry Panning. “We’re really close friends. It’s fun.”
They sit around the ping pong table at Panning’s place in downtown Ellinwood. Current members of the 3-Coin Club are Panning, Benny Worman, Bill Johnson and Dick Waters.
There was once enough men to sit around a full size ping pong table, but now they need only half. Five members have become ill or passed in the past couple of years.
They are allowed to meet there “as long as we don’t get too rowdy,”said Panning of the retired men. Their meeting place has moved around some as the group used to meet in the cafe during breakfast. However, there is no cafe open for breakfast now.
The group once had 10-15 that met regularly, but there numbers have dropped with illnesses and death, but the men are open to new members.
To pay for coffee and snacks, the men play a game called 3 Coins. Each person is allotted three coins and has the option to keep all, some or none of the coins in a closed hand. Everyone then guesses the total number of coins at the table.
Remembering their story telling capabilities, which have been perfected after so many years, one person keeps track of the bids. The winner is out and free from having to pay for coffee.
The game continues until only one man is left. He pays.
If one man ends up paying three times in a row, a horses (unprintable word) picture is taken. “There is no cheating in this game,” said Worman, who is one of the original members.
Panning keeps a running tally and admitted it generally evens out over the period of a year.
The men are comfortable and at home with their friends. Panning has made a cup holder, so that each man can reuse his cup.
Later in the day, the men play pitch at Grove Park or golf.
These men, who gave grown older with friends, now know what is important. They start each day laughing with friends. And that’s what small town life is about.