Monday Sherry Owens brought a delicious chocolate on chocolate cake to celebrate her partner’s success in reaching Ruby Life Master status. Shelby Bizzell reached that pinnacle recently, and became only one of five members of the club to do that.
Several members managed to sneak more than one piece of cake. Shelby and Sherry, maybe on the sugar high from the cake, managed to have a 73-percent game, an unbelievable feat. When the game was over, other members told Shelby to take those ruby red slippers and “get on down the road.”
We are making plans for the novice game May 23. In order to play that day, you must partner with someone who has fewer than 100 master points. This is an opportunity for newer players to see how the game works and to learn from a more experienced player.
I asked Anne Michaux and Lew Rose if they were planning to participate, and they shook their heads. Lew replied, with her signature giggle, that Anne already had a novice: her. She said, “You know we start going backwards at a certain stage in our lives.”
It takes a special person to laugh at herself. And that laughter may be what keeps bringing us back to the bridge table. Kaye Langston says she comes to the game to laugh. Not a bad reason.
Tommy Franklin shared an article that began on the front page of the April 30 Wall Street Journal. The article begins by describing a social bridge club in Mount Lebanon, Pa., which has met once a month for years and years. The women started playing when their children were little, and have seen each other through every crisis “on any soap opera.”
When their children were teenagers, they shared information. Once when Ms. Pascoli’s son had taken a cart from Shop ‘n Save and was riding it around the parking lot, she knew it from one of her bridge friends before he even got home.
These eight women have grieved with each other and consoled each other, celebrated with each other and they say bridge is “cheaper than therapy.” And “if anyone needed a plumber or a pediatric dentist, the bridge ladies were a good source of tips,” says Penny Hunt, a longtime member.
In the 1960s, bridge was a place “to learn and display social graces.” Newspapers recorded bridge events.
In April 1960, the Clayton, Ala., reported that Ms. Martin had hosted members of the Young Matrons Bridge Club, and that “bowls and vases of camellias, hyacinths and daffodils beautified the living room.” The article also reported what the ladies had for lunch.
People who are more serious about the game prefer to play duplicate bridge, but the friendship factor is still important.
Bridge players are becoming older and scarcer, however.
The American Contract Bridge League has 165,000 members today, down from 175,000 members 20 years ago. Players are dying and are not being replaced by young people. The average age of a player has risen from 58 to 71 in the same time period.
Most children of older players are not interested in learning the game, even though they have good memories of their parents’ bridge parties: Laughter, cigarette smoke and “the clinking of ice in glasses.”
The daughter of one of the Mount Lebanon bridge ladies says that bridge “is so vintage. It would be really neat if it comes back in style.” But then she admits that she is “too hyper to sit down that long.”
Still she admires the deep friendships that her mother has made through the game.
The ACBL, along with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, are backing bridge education in schools and communities. Maybe someday, when the fascination of video games wears off, young people will become interested in the game for a lifetime. We can only hope.
Thursday’s winners: first, Billy Bizzell and Selby Corbett; second, Bill Warren and Al Takemoto; third, Linda and Bob Meyer; fourth, Joyce Pate and Sherry Owens; fifth, Tommy Franklin and Kaye Langston. C — second, Bill Allgaier and Ed Wilson.
Monday’s winners: N/S first, Sue Wilson and Kaye Langston; second, Linda Greenwood and Pat Keim; third, Doris Baddour and Betsy Harrold.
E/W first, Sherry Owens and Shelby Bizzell; second, Sterling Jarrett and Billy Bizzell; third, Tommy Franklin and Barbara Ann Vinson. B — second, Peggy Womble and Carole Ray. C — second, Bill Warren and Al Takemoto.