Bridge on Commuter Trains II–some history

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

August 6, 2014

Historical context on commuter bridge out of Stamford CT is provided in a 2004 New York Times article by Jack Kadden and about the 5:23 Rye Express to Larchmont NY in an email from Alan Wertheimer sent in response to my last blog.

In the article, Gene Girden, then 73, is a lawyer who has been commuting from Stamford and playing bridge for 46 years and says, “When I started 46 years ago, there were four games in the same car.  Now we’re lucky to get one.” Fellow bridge-player John Cook adds that as recently as ten years before (1994) it was hard to even get into a game on that Stamford commute—“Somebody had to die or retire.”

In the email Wertheimer writes: “My father played ghoulies on the train from Grand Central to Larchmont [New York] every day for many years. . . . I know that he DID know the last names of the other three men . . . I also know that he NEVER saw any of these men other than on the train.”

That word “ghoulies” is slang for Goulash which was the name given to a kind of bastardized version of bridge when—in the interest of speed—the cards are not shuffled and are dealt out more than one card at a time.

Girden’s bridge group reassembled at the end of the working day to catch the 5:26 P.M. to New Canaan. In the article, participants offered reasons why they so enjoyed commuter bridge for so many years, and every day:

Gene Girden: “My philosophy about it is, hey, you can look at the two-and-a-half hours you spend every day on the train as a minus . . . .But if you look at it another way, it’s quiet time, it’s a plus.”

Tim Benthall, a native of London, multi-tasks—plays bridge and reads The Economist—and says his family can vouch for the benefits of his bridge-playing on the way home—“When I started playing the game, my mood when I got home improved considerably.”

Jack Kadden himself commented: “I’m not a bridge player myself, but when I rode with Mr. Girden and his friends, I was impressed by their easy camaraderie . . . enthusiasm . . . single-mindedness.”

Typically, they play 20 hands each way,  games proceed almost in silence, stakes a tenth of a cent a point and they don’t ever shuffle the cards—wastes time. Nothing in the article about how the cards were dealt.

Read the whole article here:

Alan Wertheimer had told me his father, Philip, published a book on playing Goulash bridge and using the magic of buying used books on the internet I bought a copy of Ghoulie: Train Bridge for $15. It belongs in any collection on the history of social bridge-playing. It’s a slim book of 60 pages that originally sold for $1, published by Sterling Publishing Co. in 1952, with an introduction by Oswald Jacoby.

The book’s sub-title is “A new, faster, wilder, more exciting game of bridge.” I may just try it out on my bridge-playing older ladies one of these days.


One Response to Bridge on Commuter Trains II–some history

  1. Los re banco en todo lo que hacen muchachos, pero que justo en un video como e9ste casi nadie use casco es una conccadirtif3n. Errar es humano y sigan para adelante.El casco de bici es una de las cosas menos este9ticas del mundo pero les aseguro que me salvf3 literalmente la vida en me1s de un palo que me pegue9.abrazo!!!

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge