Card game

After having served a tour of duty during the Korean War in the U.S. Air Force, I returned to my dental practice in Lancaster.

While renewing some friendships, I was invited to play some tennis with a group at a private home.

At the doubles format, I was asked, “Do you play bridge?” I replied that I did, whereupon I was invited to a Red Rose Duplicate Bridge Club game. I didn’t have any idea what “duplicate bridge” was. Upon my first visit to the club, I soon found out.

The group was divided into north-south and east-west partnerships. All pairs received the same cards, the object being to do the best scoring when you held the cards. After a prescribed number of “boards,” you received a total score, and were rated as to the result.

I enjoyed the intense competition. We played once weekly on the second floor of the Italian American Club on North Queen Street.

I learned that there was a national organization that controlled the games. The objective, I learned, was to win Master Points that were awarded. Also I learned that, in addition to club games, there were tournaments — local, regional and national. After a few games, I achieved some success, and learned that the ranking of Life Master was the “big deal.” I learned that there were club games in Lebanon, York, Mount Gretna and at Armstrong Cork Co.

As I acquired greater proficiency in my play, I was asked to play with better partners, and as a result I began to acquire a fair number of Master Points. You could say I was hooked.

I was asked by one of our better players, Jim Eshelman, to go to a state tournament in State College. With our wives — who didn’t play — Jim and I entered the tournament. In competition with approximately 100 pairs, as I remember, we won the Pennsylvania State Pairs. Now I was really hooked, and in subsequent years, I played in local, regional and national tournaments in Toronto; Boston; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Miami; Pittsburgh; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, you name it. I had achieved Life Master rating!

One of my favorite tournaments was held in Bermuda, and for several years we had a group of local players compete. Of course, I took my wife, and at the Southhampton Princess Resort Hotel, we enjoyed a great vacation.

Now to the point of my story. I’m writing this, at age 95, my bridge career long in the past.

I must add that these tournaments, Master Points and player ratings were all held under the auspices of the American Contract Bridge League.

A good number of years ago, I was playing at a large regional tournament in Washington, D.C., at the Shorham Hotel. My partner was Skip Stauffer, a pharmacist from New Holland.

The convention floor where we played is immense. The mezzanine was sort of like a balcony that overhung part of the playing area. There were several hundred pairs in competition. As it happens, Skip and I were playing at a table at the base of the stairs that led up to the balcony.

At about midway through the game, in the midst of intense concentration, suddenly there was a roar of applause and cheers.

Sure enough, upon the balcony, looking down, was President Dwight D. Eisenhower. To our surprise, he then, with his entourage, came over and down the stairs.

He waved his service people aside, stopped beside me at our table and motioned for us to continue to play. He actively stood and watched — “kibitzed” is the word — for several minutes. “Ike” had a love for both golf and bridge.

This was the biggest thrill of my bridge career. I dare say, I never dreamed that one day I’d have the president of the United States kibitz at the bridge table with my partner and me.

The author lives at Masonic Village in Elizabethtown.

If you know an interesting story, please write it in 600 words or less and send it to Mary Ellen Wright, LNP editorial department, P.O. Box 1328, Lancaster, PA, 17608-1328, or email it to features@lnpnews.com. Please include your phone number and the name of the town you live in.