learn to play bridge secretly and then surprise her one day by inviting her to play! Or, how about this. When I was young, one often heard of old parents with money bribing children or grandchildren to not smoke or drink or have sex until 21. How about some of us bribing children or grandchildren to learn to play bridge? I haven’t been very successful with either of these scenarios myself–#1 I don’t have much money–but it’s a technique worth a try.
As I’ve often written in blog and book, until the 70s sociable bridge was handed down from mother to daughter as almost a rite of passage. All the inter-generational transmission of the game pretty much ended with the 70s. It was just part of that 60s contempt for anyone over 30 and anything one’s parents did, like play bridge. Pre-1970, the ACBL was not needed to promote bridge–it spread as all popular culture does, by word of mouth, informally. Serious bridge players inevitably grew out of that bedrock of social players because they learned to play from parents. If, by chance, they did not learn at home and went off to college there, already in place, was serious bridge clubs and a “culture” of bridge playing in dorms and sororities where novices could learn to play.
To me, that’s the premise out of which a visionary strategic plan to promote bridge should come–restore bridge as popular culture and you won’t need to worry about growing ACBL membership.
Culbertson and Goren did the public relations task back then–but their unique roles in bridge history can’t really be played anymore by a single personality. The only answer is for the ACBL to take on that task, and/or encourage/initiate/support a separate organization to do so. And they need to do it in the next five years. All the millions of bridge-playing women that Ely Culbertson and then Charlie Goren generated by teaching today’s old ladies–or their mothers–to play bridge decades ago are about to die off.
That broken link between the boomer generation of the 60s and us old ladies out here needs to be mended, or at least patched up enough to look to boomer children to pick up their grandparents game.