03. Sociable Bridge: It’s ready for a Retro renaissance

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Retro, in 1986, had  just one definition in Webster’s New World Dictionary. The word “retro” was short for retrorocket. By the 90s, however, that word Retro had begun to be capitalized, entered the language and meant far more–it was a trend, a movement. To be in Retro means to be looking back with yearning for what used to be–more specifically, nostalgia for the pop culture of the 50s and 60s.

Boomers by the 90s had become sufficiently removed from their wild 60s days when they despised everything anybody over 30 did, and specifically did not want to take up the bridge game (along with martinis, and barbecued steaks) that so defined their parents’ social life in the 1950s and 60s.

From what I know, sociologists differentiate between manufactured pop culture (created by corporate advertising) and organic pop culture (things that seem to have a life of their own or come naturally out of the culture). I believe that sociable bridge in its early days (1890s-1920s) was true pop culture, organic, part of a national explosion in all kinds of voluntary clubs that included playing cards.

For women, those clubs were a natural extension of women’s efforts to break out of being homebound that began with the women’s club movement in the mid-1800’s–part of women’s history.

From the late 20s thru the 60s, you could say Culbertson definitely marketed to sociable bridge players, and Goren did as well. So to that extent bridge became a game promoted as a business. What makes bridge different, however, in my view, is what happened from the 70s on.

The fad for bridge ended by the 70s, but millions of the women who played went right on playing in their informal bridge clubs without any promotion from playing card companies or the establishment. There was no organization to keep it going (as serious bridge has in the ACBL). This, to me, transforms sociable bridge from just another fad game to a pop culture phenomenon.

The problem is that sociable bridge was always transmitted to the next generation within families, mothers to daughters, a way of entertaining. So when the boomer generation back in the mid-60s and 70s rid the campus of bridge, they broke that chain that existed for decades.

Which is how come I wrote my book, Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway? in the first place. I began to realize if I didn’t at least get the paper trail I’d found into print, might never happen.

Come on back, boomers, and take up your mom’s bridge game!  Don’t be intmidated by what you hear about bridge being too difficult–anything is difficult if your goal is to be a serious competitor. So . . . don’t be serious! Play just for fun and the incredible lastingness of bridge clubs in a day when friendships come and go.

If you have the DNA for it, you’ll just naturally evolve into a more serious player–if you don’t, you won’t. Instead you’ll have begun on a decades-long friendship with three or seven other women, that will not only give you pleasure, but–scientists are saying–help you get to 90 dementia-free.

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