16. Sociable Bridge: In the military it’s been a tradition

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Said the American Mercury in 1931 in an article, “The Service Wife”: “There is not a service wife worthy of the name who cannot play contract bridge and poker . . . and who will not arise from bed to do them.” For, said the article, bridge-playing “was the criterion by which one rises or falls socially and professionally, in the service.”

As the 30s came to a close, America entered the pre-WWII years–Britain at war by 1939, America on the eve of doing so. For bridge this would be a growth opportunity for, as bridge columnist Albert Morehead said:  “The theory that card playing increases greatly during wars . . . has been supported by recent history.”

In World War II, with the draft of millions into the military, a whole new demographic was exposed to bridge.  My husband was one of them–his family’s game (and mine) had been pinochle. He was recruited to fill in as a fourth at bridge, while stationed in England with a Signal Corps unit. Once played for a while, he was told, pinochle would seem boring by contrast. And that’s true!

I’m sure that many women took up bridge following WWII with the same scenario as mine–their husbands were introduced to it during the War and when they married and moved to the suburbs in the 50s social pressure was already “on” to play bridge if you want to fit into the neighborhood. Goren’s books provided that.

The difference between World War I and II, when it comes to bridge, is this. In 1918 the game was Auction Bridge and still mostly a card game of the upper class. Following World War I, with loosening of attitudes toward playing cards, auction began its spread to the middle class. By the 20s, Culbertson was promoting the new contract bridge to anyone who’d buy his bridge book, becoming a mass fad.

Going into Word War II contract bridge was the game people played, the middle class had picked it up, and WWII demographics in the military was ideal for spreading the fad for bridge exponentially following that war. 


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