Bridging generations

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It was June Carr's turn to host the bi-monthly meeting of the Phippsburg Bridge Club. The food was ready. The coffee was brewing. The cards were on the table. But minutes before the doorbell rang with the first bridge player, Carr tripped on her phone cord and landed -- hard -- on a chair and then on the floor.

"I was in pain," the 84-year-old woman said. "Everyone helped to put the food out because I couldn't."

Despite a throbbing pain in her side, Carr still sat down and played four hours of bridge.

"I wouldn't miss it for anything," she said. "After the game was over, someone said that I should go to the emergency room.

"I had a couple cracked ribs and cracked vertebrae. Boy, nothing stops me from playing bridge."

Carr has been a member of the Phippsburg Bridge Club for 46 years, since she moved to Phippsburg in the late 1950s. She never played the game before that first meeting, but she hasn't missed a game since. (Unless she was in the hospital, she said.)

The P'burg Bridge Club, as members call it, has been in existence for more than 60 years. Clarice Reid, who is 87, is one of the original members. For 60 years, the group has met every other Tuesday. They eat lunch and then get settled in for the rest of the afternoon.

Since the first meeting of the P'burg Bridge Club, members have kept a notebook recording who was at each game. There is an entry for the day Lila Rider joined the club 35 years ago. The group plans to donate the book to the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg.

In Routt County, there are bridge clubs in every town, including the well-known Yampa Grand Slammers. Each group plays a different kind of bridge -- duplicate, contract or auction. The women in Phippsburg play American auction bridge, which longtime member Rider said is more relaxed than contract bridge.

"We have time to tell jokes with auction," said Rider, who is famous for her jokes.

"Did you hear the one about the pet pig?" she asked. As she tells her jokes, her eyes shine and she seems to get decades younger.

Bridge is a partnership game involving four players. Today, the P'burg Bridge Club has eight members. At the height of the game's popularity, the club had 13 members, which "freed the hostess up to serve coffee," Rider said.

Rider has lived in Phippsburg since the 1930s, and she remembers the early days of the town, which measures four blocks by four blocks.

In the early days of the Phippsburg club, the roads never were plowed in winter.

"We put our cars up on blocks and didn't leave P'burg all winter," Rider said. "We would pile the dishes on sleds and pull them over to someone's house. We would dance and play cards."

As the members get older and have a harder time getting to the games, Rider's brother Mark Williams acts as the group's chauffeur.

The youngest member of the Phippsburg Bridge Club is 35, but most of the members are in their 70s or 80s.

No one is sure why the game isn't popular with younger people, but Carr guessed it has something to do with their busy schedules.

"We have a lot of young people moving to Phippsburg," Carr said. "But they all have to work."

There was a short-lived bridge club started by younger women years ago, but it didn't last more than a month. The club fell apart when one of the players left town.

Bridge isn't the kind of game you can master in an afternoon. Each hand holds endless possibilities. Rider said it took her a year to really understand bridge, and she isn't sure whether she can play very well even after 35 years at the table. Carr said the same thing.

Lois Stefano, 68, is one of the newest members of the club. She joined three years ago and is just starting to learn the game.

"They pestered me to no end to join," Stefano said. "Now, I never miss a meeting. I don't know what's so fun about it. It's just a kick."

-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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