Pembury Bridge Club in Pittsfield bridges social gap



Jim Bryant was ready to try his hand at bridge.

The Windsor resident recalled that he'd tried to learn bridge decades ago, but couldn't find anyone to teach him how to play.

A friend recently told him about the Pembury Bridge Club, a nonprofit group that gathers bridge players who quietly -- but competitively -- engage in the seemingly timeless card game.

At Thursday's club meeting, Bryant was one of the first to arrive and was reading some of the booklets on the game. The card shark had already dealt many hands in games like pitch, spades and queens. But now finally, he was going to learn bridge.

"It's a culmination of everything I know about cards," Bryant said while reading the rule book. "I've always wanted to learn the game, so I sacrificed dinner time tonight."

Whether they're novices like Bryant, or have played bridge for decades, the Pembury Bridge Club has been coming up aces for more than 50 years as players frequent the South Congregational Church basement and try their hands at the competitive card game.

"It's a wonderful way to meet people," said Sandy Walters, who picked up duplicate bridge about five years ago. "It's like playing chess or doing a crossword puzzle."

Bridge is a partnership game that involves betting, wagering, some strategy, a bit of math and maybe some bluffing.

For the more enthusiastic bridge players -- or those enthusiastic about giving money to a good cause -- players can play bridge all day Friday for the Alzheimer's Association fundraiser, The Longest Day.

The American Contract Bridge League is sponsoring bridge contests across the country, just one of many activities being held across the country for The Longest Day. A minimum of $10 is asked to participate at the bridge Pembury Bridge Club's usual location, 110 South St., starting at 8 a.m. The goal is $1,600. Early sign-ups are not necessary.

"All the money raised goes toward Alzheimer's," said Robert Brodeur, one of the club's directors.

Usually, regular bridge games at the club last about seven minutes each. The club begins at 6:45 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, and Wednesday and Friday at 12:30 p.m. Bridge for beginners will start this Thursday at 6 p.m., and novice classes begin at 6 p.m. every Monday beginning June 24. The entry fee is $5 a player.

That money pays the rent to use the church's basement and also purchases new equipment, like a laptop, card-sorting software, and a card-sorting machine.

"It's upgraded the quality of what we offer," said Peter Samsel, the club manager and president of the club's board of directors.

Money also benefits The Elizabeth Freeman Center, Habitat for Humanity, and St. Joseph Church's kitchen.

As soon as Thursday's first round of bridge began, the dull roar from mingling turned into almost dead silence as 18 bridge players in teams of two placed their bets and dealt their cards. The crowd overwhelmingly hailed from older generations, some of them who've been playing bridge since they were young.

"It's harder to bring in the younger generation," Samsel said. "There are so many other things competing against it."

But 19-year-old bridge player Paul Friedrich said he prefers the classic bridge over his generation's technology. Friedrich began playing bridge back in January, when mathematics professor Frank Morgan began offered it as a class. Morgan and Friedrich were partners in Thursday's game.

"[Bridge] is not mindless like with Facebook and computer games, and it's more social," Friedrich said.

To reach Adam Poulisse:,
or (413) 496-6214.
On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse

Bridge facts ...

n The Pembury Bridge Club was started more than 50 years ago by an Englishman named Percy Jones. The name Pembury comes from a place in England that he fancied.

n Members of the Pembury Bridge Club vary in age and experience. Some have been playing as part of the club for more than 40 years.

n Bridge was derived from whist, a British game which dates back to the 16th century.

n George Washington, a bridge player, put small wagers on his games to make it more exciting.

Source: Eagle news services


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