A good hand, better companyA group of local bridge enthusiasts share their love for the card game several times a week at Central Park in Woodbury.
By: Hank Long, Woodbury Bulletin
Every early Thursday afternoon as they file one-by-one into a basement room at Central Park, Earl Moquist greets them with a smile and checks their name off the sign up sheet.
Between five and seven tables of four players are assembled with decks of cards on each.
A bit of small talk sets the mood, but once the last player arrives the game ensues. This is bridge. And over the last few years at Central Park the local group that plays the complicated card game has grown in size. So much so that gatherings of local bridge enthusiasts has swelled beyond the meeting times that are on the official Central Park calendar of events.
“I’d say we have a pretty healthy sized group,” said Moquist, who has been organizing the Thursday bridge group at Central Park for the last five years.
Many members of the group used to play bridge at the senior center in Cottage Grove, but after they realized most of the participants were Woodbury residents, the group worked with Woodbury Parks and Recreation staff to find a permanent weekly gathering space in Central Park.
“It’s completely citizen run,” said Woodbury Parks and Recreation specialist Polly Blum. “We just schedule them the space and make sure people in the community know they are welcomed to join the group. It’s really neat that they just kind of run it on their own.”
Participants are mostly of retirement age, but Lorraine and Earl Raths said the game that many seniors enjoy is a game they’ve played all their married life.
“It’s a great way to connect with people,” Earl Raths said. “And I think it’s a game that once you learn, it kind of sticks with you.”
One of the most senior participants, Lily Hamalainen, 96, said she remembers learning the card game when she was young. She started coming to the Central Park bridge group when she moved to the nearby Stonecrest senior living residence a few years ago.
“To me, it’s about getting together with other people,” Hamalainen said.
In addition to the scheduled Thursday bridge sessions, Fridays have been available for awhile, and for the more competitive bridge players, Clark Krumm has started a duplicate bridge group on Monday afternoons.
And for those who are interested in learning the game or improving their skills, Fran Langevin offers free bridge lessons every Monday mornings at 10 a.m.
The retired teacher, who often draws close to a dozen people to her lessons each week, began volunteering her time to beginners about five years ago after many years of offering private lessons and through local community education classes.
“The funny thing about it is, I’ve never actually had a lesson myself,” Langevin said. “But I’ve been playing and teaching for so many years, I guess I learn more about the game by helping others learn.”
Langevin said she was first introduced to bridge as a young mother when some neighborhood moms asked her to come along with them to a local class. The class never filled, so Langevin ended up teaching herself how to play, which she said was a bit of a frustrating process.
“It’s a wonderful game, but you really do have to be patient with yourself,” Langevin said. “I always tell my students they have to give themselves one full year to learn the game before they decide if they really like it or want to give it up.”
Moquist, who remembers first playing bridge as a student in the dormitory at the University of Minnesota more than 40 years ago, said the game is one that is often played in a social setting, but one that relies on good mathematical skills in more competitive settings.
Asked why the most bridge players tend to be of retirement age or older, Moquist said many of the younger generations have had multimedia distractions to keep them away from card games.“Bridge is good for seniors who want to stay sharp minded later in life,” he said,
Langevin, who admits she has a passion for the game that she just can’t shake said she hopes to pass the game onto the younger generations.
Langevin said she has contacted the local high schools to see if local students would be interested in learning the game and playing on occasion with the regular bridge groups.
“It’s not a game for everybody,” she said. “But it’s definitely a game I could see some young ones really enjoying.”
For more information on bridge go to the American Contract Bridge League at www.acbl.org
For a weekly schedule of Bridge gatherings at Central Park in Woodbury go to http://tinyurl.com/mdjmd6