by Lisa Pritchard
Five times a month, nine months of the year, the accommodating Legacy Banquet Center out past west Main Street, is the scene for one of Grove City’s more interesting secrets. Ladies, retired and ranging in age from their 60s into their 90s, meet with their monthly group for lunch, laughter and Library Bridge. For a Bridge fee paid to the Grove City Public Library of $10 a year per group, each card player convenes with fellow enthusiasts for some considerable amusement. Most belong to multiple groups, played at the Legacy, and other locations including home clubs; barring inclement weather or being under the weather, these women won’t be swayed from their favorite pastime.
Started in the 1950s, Grove City Library Bridge was preceded by many home games and other Grove City forums reaching back to the 20s. The women of this group have been playing since childhood. “I was six when I started playing Bridge,” Carol Gargasz reminisces. “My mom was teaching me Bridge while my brother taught me Poker. I guess Bridge ended up winning out, because I’m still playing it decades later.” Heads nod in agreement. “Everybody played. I played between classes at college,” Carol Pritchard chimed in. “It was something we could all do. When we were first married, it was fun and inexpensive entertainment.”
In fact, for the cost of a deck of cards, groups could enjoy hours and hours of pleasant, and intellectually stimulating, distraction. However, don’t take this too lightly. Bridge is serious business. I mean really serious business. There are 635,013,559,600 possible bridge hands; computers have been able to beat the best chess players but, to quote a top bridge player, “computers stink at bridge.” You may have a picture of demure bridge players, sitting around a card table, laughing, sipping coffee and behaving in a generally convivial manner. But, just like its more popular cousin Poker, Bridge has proven deadly serious. For instance, in the mid-1920s, a Chicago woman sued her husband for divorce, on the inexcusable grounds that he had trumped her ace. Kansas City, a few years later, was the scene of determined bridge player Myrtle Bennett, who had shot her husband to death after he had failed to make a contract of four spades. She was subsequently acquitted, when, after the ill-fated hand was reconstructed, it was determined that Mrs. Bennett’s husband could have made the contract after all. By the way, she even collected on his $30,000 life insurance policy.
The modern version of Bridge (shortened from Contract Bridge) was developed in 1925, but has roots in the centuries-old British card game Whist. The 1920s and 30s were the “Golden Era of Bridge;” in the 1940s, Bridge was played in 44% of all American homes. It was common, even into the 60s, for student unions and dorms to be the scene of between-class games and weekend tournaments. Computer games and other distractions have eroded the fervor for Bridge, and that’s just a shame. One can indeed play Bridge online, and even participate in rousing and challenging games. However, our Library Players are just not interested. “Bridge needs to be played face-to-face. I need to look at my partner, scan my opponents. I do this to keep sharp, stimulate my mind. It’s great to be in my, well, let’s just say Golden Years, and still mentally active.” One of the ladies shook her head. “It’s just fun.”
By the way, if you’re Interested in being part of the Library Club, call them. Serious Bridge is Waiting. 724.468.7320.