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: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/06/nyregion/commuter-s-journal-20-hands-of-bridge-and-that-s-just-on-the-ride-in.html
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.