02. Sociable Bridge: Sociable bridge has no paper trail

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Which is probably how come my book–Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway?–is the first-ever (far as I know) book on this phenomen of popular culture, i.e., the millions of women over decades who have made their bridge clubs a major aspect of their social lives.

In my first BTC blog, I told how a chance day at Miami Public Library led me into this quirky hobby of researching bridge history. At that point, however, and for years after, my goal was still to write that cookbook I’d wanted to write back in 1960. Only change was I now understood my cookbook would be more a book on the pop culture and history of sociable ladies-only bridge clubs than true cooikbook.

Years went by as I dabbled with my hobby at the library exploring what I could find about these millions of women in old women’s magazines and cookbooks. In the mid-90s two things came to my attention.

My daughter sent me the chapter about bridge parties from the book Going Going Gone by Susan Jonas and Marilyn Nissenson. This is a great book for dipping into Retro stuff and reminiscing (if you’re 50-60 plus). It’s a collection of 70 brief articles on “vanishing Americana.” ACBL-sponsored bridge will survive, the authors concluded, but social bridge was in the going-going-about-to-be-gone category: “it’s unlikely that social bridge will ever revive” is how they summed up bridge parties.

Then one day at Plymouth College Library in New Hampshire, I came across a subject in their card index I’d not seen before–“bridge facetie”–and there, to my delight, was a doctoral dissertation on sociable/serious bridge. It was by David Scott with the scholar-speak title, “An Analysis of  Adult Play Groups: Social vs Serious Participation in Contract Bridge.”

I tracked down Mr. Scott to Texas, asked if I could quote from his writings, and he not only said yes, but sent me other writings  that grew out of his original dissertation.

For the first time, I understood the enormous effect that campus unrest of the 60s had on bridge. College had been the place the ACBL counted on to keep turning out expert bridge players and teachers. College had been the place that women picked up (if they hadn’t already learned) how to play bridge. Scott’s conclusions as to the survivability of social bridge were about as gloomy as in Going Going Gone. 

I was finding the bridge paper trail in the 70s very skimpy and the same during most of the 80s.  Then glimmerings began appearing–an article here and there in the New York Times, a clipping sent by a friend from Maine, a woman’s magazine article on bridge. We were getting into the Retro 90s! Suddenly there was nostalgia for the 50s and 60s and martinis and steaks and playing bridge.

Maybe sociable bridge would survive after all!

And so, I persisted and finally published my book in 2009.

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