It’s lucky that my parents live in a large house and never throw anything away; otherwise I would never have rediscovered this pack of Happy Families cards.
Strictly speaking, this game is called Jeu des 7 Familles because it was bought during a family holiday in France in 1972. This pack is “Familles Champions”, featuring seven families engaged, with varying degrees of skill, in a range of athletic pursuits.
There’s nothing special about the quality of the cards themselves: they’re not varnished or laminated and the reverse is just a plain orange colour. What makes each of the families so memorable is the humorous style of the illustrations.
From the burly father in Famille Ballon, to the Victorian-looking grandmother in Famille Duvelo, each of the 42 cards suggests a real personality with his/her own back story. Here they are 40 years later, frozen in time – especially the snowbound mother of Famille Duski.
I still have the box for these cards, but there is no logo, date or manufacturer’s name, let alone a clue as to who did these illustrations. We did have a second set of Happy Families cards during that holiday; I think they featured more traditional occupations, such as bakers and butchers.
These days, family games have migrated to the iPad, while everyone sits around complaining about the wi-fi speeds in the holiday apartment. Jeu des 7 Familles could be played anywhere and was guaranteed to improve your French vocabulary.
A few years after that French holiday, I got interested in tennis and even took lessons for a while. I like to think that I was inspired by the efforts of Famille Raquette.